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In Beverly Hills, the Cadillac of Cadillac dealerships

Automaker has earned its LGBTQ rainbow stripes



Cadillac, gay news, Washington Blade

Cadillac of Beverly Hills welcomes the LGBT community. ‘It’s not your grandmother’s Cadillac,’ says General Sales Manager Ron Elkhoury. (Photo by Troy Masters)

With a mandate to expand the brand’s legacy, a drive to exceed client expectations, and a cutting-edge facility whose wide-open design speaks to the transparency with which they conduct themselves, Cadillac of Beverly Hills is a wake-up call to the sleepy old way of doing business.

The sleek, sprawling, super-modern facility, located on the marquee corner of Robertson and Wilshire, had its Grand Opening last week—by which point they had already established themselves as a formidable presence.

Since first welcoming the public on Sept. 10, notes General Sales Manager Ronald Elkhoury, “In the western region [14 states west of the Mississippi], we have been the number one Cadillac dealership, in sales volume and customer satisfaction.”

It’s that latter distinction, notes Elkhoury, that makes the former one possible.

“This is not your traditional auto dealership that you go into, and are attacked by salespeople with tacky techniques,” says Elkhoury. “And you feel that right away. There’s no pressure at all. It’s a place where you’re able to relax, and encouraged to just hang out.”

And people do—at five distinct lounges, where they can chill with Netflix and warm up with Starbucks coffee. This cultivates a “painless, enjoyable experience,” says Elkhoury, who likens time spent at the dealership to “when you were five, and you went to the toy store. You had a good time while you were there, and you left with something you really liked. And that made you happy.”

Speaking at the Grand Opening, Steve Carlisle, GM Senior Vice President and President, Cadillac, declared the dealership to be “absolutely awesome. It is the latest and newest, most up-to-date Cadillac facility. We couldn’t be prouder.”

From the lighting and surface areas to fabrics and furniture, “No detail was overlooked,” notes General Manager Lonnie Bennett. “All of it was designed at the highest standard, and with the idea in mind of reflecting where Cadillac has been—and where it’s going.”

The history of Cadillac design is on display throughout, telling that story with stunning photographs of iconic automobiles culled from the company’s own collection, and hung in a manner that invites the sort of admiration and contemplation one would expect to experience in an art gallery.

“They spared no expense,” says Bennett, of Cadillac’s in-house design team, “because Cadillac’s return to Beverly Hills, after a 30-year absence, has to be right.”

Elkhoury notes the one-of-a-kind dealership establishes a new gold standard for the manner in which their luxury vehicles are presented. As such, this “elite pilot dealership” boasts aesthetics and amenities befitting the global reputation not just of their brand, but also of their namesake neighborhood.

At the Grand Opening, the Mayor of Beverly Hills, John Mirirsh, concurred, saying he commended Cadillac, “for meeting the city’s expectation for a luxury brand in the design of this store. We were very particular about who occupied this space,” the mayor noted, “because we have a reputation in Beverly Hills that must be upheld. Only Cadillac could have done this, and we are proud to welcome them back.”

Dynamic though the surroundings may be, Cadillac of Beverly Hills is ultimately a vehicle for, well, vehicles. There are 400 of them on site, of the new, used, and certified varieties—but it’s the contemporary models, says Elkhoury, whose modern exteriors and tech-infused interiors make Cadillac “more relevant, more appealing than ever before.”

On the showroom floor, you’ll find 2020 models. These are, says Carlisle, fueling a “global momentum that continues to accelerate, with new and compelling products such as the revamped 2020 XT5.” Carlisle cites “new crossovers and sedans, including the XT6 and CT5” as bold declarations that “the brand is redefining itself for a new generation of customers for whom luxury and technology are inextricably linked.”

The design and tech may be thoroughly modern—forward-looking, in fact—but some things will never change, promises Elkhoury, who says their unparalleled “customer experience” is “what makes the brand stand out. And your customer journey is going to be smooth in all stages—from the moment you walk in, to the moment you leave with the car and take that first picture that ends up on social media.”

Okay, so in terms of iconic luxury product, stellar customer service, and fabulous new facility, consider those boxes are checked—but what’s Cadillac’s track record with this publication’s target audience?

“Our pledge to the LGBTQ and allied community starts at the core of the company’s policies,” says Anne Roberts, of Cadillac Communications. “It is an integral part of our mission to build a workplace of choice and an inclusive culture that welcomes and celebrates a diverse workforce.”

Those values, says Roberts, also “extend outside the walls of our company into the community, through the dedication of our General Motors PLUS Employee Resource Group” as well as LGBTQ-inclusive advertising campaigns and promotional events.

Cadillac also earns its LGBTQ rainbow stripes, so to speak, for being the first automaker to join the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. And, adds Roberts, “We stand before you today as the first and only automaker to sign both the Equality Act and Amicus Brief supporting the prevention of LGBTQ discrimination.”

Echoing that steadfast commitment from corporate, Elkhoury has a promise of his own for the community—the Beverly Hills community.

“This is just the start of the journey,” says Elkhoury, of the young dealership. “That’s why we want people to know we are the new generation. We’re here, and we’re here to stay. If there’s something you need, Cadillac of Beverly Hills is going to be there for you.”

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Business slowly resumes in West Hollywood

Halting steps toward new normal amid pandemic and protest panic



Transit Workers Appreciation Week - Santa Monica Boulevard Lanterns

After a nearly 3 month pause, Los Angeles allows businesses to reopen and owners are hopeful crowds will return.  (Photo provided by City of West Hollywood)

Feeling the pressure of an ailing economy, West Hollywood businesses are anxious to finally re-open, after several weeks of closures. Amid new safety rules, the long term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest have resulted in a mix of fear and uncertainty within the community,

“I am excited for our businesses but worried for them as well,” acknowledged Genevieve Morrill, president and CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “While it almost feels impossible to move forward without fear of the pandemic or fear of looters, many are.”

Morrill is concerned that Weho establishments are able to manage all the necessary protocol to keep employees and the public safe, and at the same time, break even and not take more losses.

“Nevertheless, I am happy that many companies can begin to generate revenue.

They were shut down for months, only to reopen one day and close again due to threats of vandalism,” she noted.

“The marches and protests are needed and our business are supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and want to be involved. But they are also stretched to the max – they need immediate relief.”

Morrill is hopeful about more jobs coming to the area.

“Some businesses have received PPP loans allowing them to rehire. With the recent amendment to the PPP loan policy, this has been a much needed adjustment to allow rehiring to happen,” she claimed.

Weho Bars, Restaurants, Jobs

Wendy Tuttle.

West Hollywood restaurants and bars are opening with cautious optimism, warns hospitality recruiter Wendy Tuttle.

“They will be assessing the demand and hiring/bringing back staff appropriately. Most are chomping at the bit to get back to work. There are others that may have underlying health issues or live with family members that might be hesitant to return out of fear of contracting Covid-19.”

Tuttle’s clients are “anxiously waiting” receiving those calls to come back to work.

“My people want to hear ‘we’re open. We have all the plans in place to keep you and guests safe.’ so that they can get back to work, doing what they love—creating great food, while offering an amazing experience with friends, family and community.”

Restaurants like Conservatory are looking at fully opening their venues, with a full food and beverage menu, servers, a host/hostess.

“Conservatory is excited about opening up to the community again, and are taking every measure to ensure safety for our employees and guests,” said owner Paul Kalt.

Kait feels “lucky” that the restaurant’s street-side cafe with a pick up window has been open.

“That has allowed guests to enjoy keeping their daily routines for coffee, cocktails and food, take out and delivery. While we have very much missed our full restaurant capabilities, we have been able to maintain continued service and as much of a sense of normalcy as possible, during these unprecedented times.”

For Pride Month, Conservatory have created specialty cocktails for the month of June. For their For The Love Wins package—all six cocktails offered in a package for $70– a percentage of proceeds will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign.

George Figares, general manager at Fiesta Cantina Weho is equally thrilled to be back. ‘WeHo has been dark for too long and we are happy to bring back Fiesta to WeHo!” They offer a 4-8 PM happy hour everyday.

Making sure guests feel comfortable is Figares’ number one priority.

“First and foremost, public safety is our top priority. Keeping everyone safe throughout our reopening is essential. We want everyone to come out and enjoy the community, but in a way that does not encourage the spread of the pandemic.”

Fiesta Cantina has the most delicious nachos. (Photo by Susan Hornik)

He continued: “We are hopeful that with following the strict guidelines set by the State and County Health departments that we will be able to operate in a way that is safe for our employees and guests.”

Many bars in West Hollywood have found a way to open, serving food and observing social distancing rules.  Rocco’s, The Abbey, Beaches, Fiesta Cantina and others have reopened with social distancing rules in place and food as the centerpiece.

David Cooley, owner of West Hollywood’s famed bar and restaurant, The Abbey, was on hand to welcome customers on the first post-lockdown day of business. (Photo by Troy Masters)

David Cooley recently told the Los Angeles Blade, “We scan everyone’s temperature, require masks and have social distance table rules in place,” he said.

On a recent mid-day walk through WeHo, every bar we visited was strictly imposing the new rules, too. But the crowds are huge. At least one such business has been cited for being over-capacity since implementation of the new reduced census rules.

Weho Stores

“RJ  Holguin, director of marketing and outreach at My 12 Step Store, has mixed feelings about Weho businesses reopening.

“I’m in favor but I think it’s best to move forward with great caution. People are so anxious to be out that they are willing to take a risk,” Holguin said.

RJ Holguin (Photo by Paulo Murillo)

The store has remained open online and that has been Holguin’s saving grace.

“We are now open for instore purchase with all the guidelines, but still recommend people to order online and pick up or use our curbside service. It’s very challenging to maintain in store shopping with the regulations and operate with less employees.”

Last summer, the store was expanded, to offer a better shopping experience.

“In order to meet our expectations, we needed to increase our in store sales by 30% which we started to, during the holiday season. But by the end of March, we were losing 100% of our in store sales due to the shutdown, which has been a huge financial hit,” said Holguin.

While it has been “a year of lemons,” Holguin has constantly found ways to make a joyful lemonade.

“We have provided a weekly post to our blog on the emotional effects on 12-step recovery, and offered free meeting chips to newcomers in the area. Our Facebook page has constant updates on our outreach program,” he said proudly.

During the Black Lives Matters protests, Holguin and his team painted support graffiti on their store. Protesters stopped to take pictures and offered words of support.

West Hollywood dogs haven’t yet gotten the green light to be able to play together but grooming services are available in day cares like Dog-E-Den.

“We miss our staff, our customers and the dogs who we have come to know and love to care for,” said owner Gene Barash.

The pandemic made it impossible to operate for about two months and Barash had to fully close the store. “We began reopening with reduced days/hours, but then the protests required us to close down for a few days. Thankfully, they have been very peaceful after the first few days, so we reopened again yesterday. We have a pretty high level of confidence that the protests won’t have a disruptive impact on our business.”

Over the past 3 months, Barash has received a lot of calls and emails from customers letting them know that they are looking forward to the daycare reopening and can’t wait to be able to bring their dogs in again.

“We are really appreciative of their support and encouragement and consider ourselves lucky to have such positivity coming from our community, especially in these incredibly challenging times.”

Gyms have not yet been able to open, but Brendon Ayanbadejo, President of Fitness at West Coast Fitness, the franchisee of Orangetheory Fitness, has been hard at work getting his studios ready.

“We can’t wait to open our Weho studio and the rest of our locations across California. The health and safety of our team and members is always our number one priority. We also know that health, fitness, physical activity and community are vital for a healthy immune system and mental health. So we feel excited and ready to get people back doing what they love once we get the green light.”

The state of CA announced last week guidelines of a state re-opening date of 6/12 for gyms and fitness studios.

“However, the county decides when we will be allowed to open, based on their assessment of health, risk, etc.” he explained. “We are digesting the state guidelines and waiting to hear from county health and govt representatives on specific dates when we will be allowed to open each studio.”

Economically having their business closed has of course been a challenge, stated . Ayanbadejo. “But, we are in the same boat as so many others. Beyond any economic impact the pandemic and especially here in our home of Los Angeles the protests in support of Black Lives Matter have elevated our community and opened our collective eyes to the role and responsibility we need to play.

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Avelo Airlines takes off

Avelo Airlines is the longtime work of seasoned airline executive Andrew Levy



Avelo Airlines maiden flight from Burbank Airport on April 28, 2021 (Blade photo by Alejandro Cervantes)

BURBANK – Avelo Airlines is cleared and ready for take off. For the first time in 15 years, a new regional American airline is taking its inaugural flight.

Based out of Burbank, and flying to 11 local airports, Avelo is here to take travelers to national parks, wine regions and cultural hubs including Sonoma County, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Yellowstone.

But the standout element of the new airline might be ridiculously low ticket prices, with the starting cost for a ticket only $19. Avelo is the country’s hot new ultra-low-cost-carrier.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 28th, Avelo lifted off for its very first flight to Sonoma County Airport. It was a well-picked hub, selected to showcase the best of Northern California: lush green landscapes and expertly made wine. 

Avelo Airlines is the longtime work of seasoned airline executive Andrew Levy, whose resume includes CFO of United Airlines and co-founder and president of Allegiant Air. Put together, CEO Andrew Levy and his team have over 200 years of airline experience.

In his speech at the ribbon cutting, Levy said “Avelo’s purpose is to inspire travel. Today we begin the process to make [traveling] easy, convenient and affordable.” He also described the company as having a “soul of service”, highlighting customer care as Avelo’s backbone.

The upbeat flight staff was decked out in colorful boutonnieres as they welcomed executives, investors, press, and airplane nerds onto the plane.

The mood was celebratory throughout the flight, with speeches and toasts from Levy and his colleagues all commemorating the project, almost decades in the making.

Throughout the many years of development almost every detail about the new company has been kept tightly under wraps. Executives beamed and shook hands in congratulations, while airplane bloggers reveled in the new details – examining tray tables, leg room and how the seats recline. 

Burbank Airport holds an almost cult status in both Los Angeles and in the airline industry. It’s small, uncrowded and laid back, while most big city airports can be described as anxiety inducing with lines to rival Disneyland.

At Burbank passengers can get through security in 15 minutes, often less. As a company, Avelo’s personality seems to match that of Burbank – it seeks to make air travel an easygoing commodity, and do it all at affordable prices.

Avelo Airlines maiden flight from Burbank Airport on April 28, 2021
(Blade photo by Alejandro Cervantes)
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LA’s comeback, a lesbian community leader has a starring role

There’s a sense of relief and excitement as LA starts to reopen



Madonna Cacciatore, (driving) and spouse Robin McWilliams in the new Discover LA advert

LOS ANGELES – Nearly thirteen long months have passed since the coronavirus pandemic first gripped the greater Los Angeles region as well as the rest of the Golden State.

However, now with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reporting that its Health Metrics data continues to reflect reduced transmission of COVID-19 in the County and test positivity remains at the lowest levels of the pandemic- coupled with 53% of the population getting vaccinated, there’s a sense of relief and excitement as LA starts to reopen.

Having a role in that reopening literally is Madonna Cacciatore and her spouse Robin McWilliams who are part of an ensemble cast in the recently released Discover Los Angeles dot com television commercial celebrating the sights, sounds, places, and destinations in LA.

Cacciatore, a transplant from the Lone Star State of Texas, in addition to being an actor is also Vice President of the Board of Directors at L-Project Los Angeles, the former Executive Director at Christopher Street West/LA Pride, and the former Director of Special Events at Los Angeles LGBT Center.

McWilliams is the owner and CEO of MadCatch Entertainment, a management company representing some of the most amazing theatrically trained actors, singers and writers in the Los Angeles, and NY area.


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