Beverly Hills Hotel Boycott: How Will It End?


Two months into it, insiders offer up three likely scenarios.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

With the boycott now in its eighth week, Beverly Hills Hotel regulars are worried there's no endgame in sight.

How much the Beverly Hills Hotel has been impacted is unclear. When two THR reporters visited the hotel June 5, they found a relatively sparse 30 guests at lunch in the Polo Lounge; most were tourists, along with three local housewives.

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Insiders offered several solutions:

1. Industry leaders could urge the Obama administration to withdraw visas for the sultan, his family and staff, just as it has done with Russian president Vladimir Putin (to little effect).

2. Boycotters should divert their energies to other anti-Sultan actions -- for instance, pushing the Obama administration to not fast-track Brunei toward full membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (More than 100 members of Congress have signed a letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. trade rep to insist that the Southeast Asian country repeal the anti-gay laws or face expulsion from trade talks.)

3. Boycotters could switch to a "revolving" boycott that targets different hotels at different times, including the less-affected Bel-Air Hotel, also part of the Sultan's Dorchester Collection.

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So far, there's no sign any of the above will happen. And there's always the possibility the sultan is too rich to care. "Our campaign is to make these hotels nuclear-radioactive and they will quickly become shadows of their former selves," says Fred Saintz, a rep for Human Rights Campaign, the most prominent player in the boycott. "Sooner or later, the Brunei investment agency will look at their balance sheet and make the determination, this is not a going concern." 

Additional reporting by Gary Baum and Tina Daunt.