Polo Lounge Rises Back Into Power Lunch Ranks After Fizzled Boycott

Courtesy of the Polo Lounge
The Polo Lounge

Hollywood shunned the beloved Beverly Hills Hotel spot in 2014 over its owner the Sultan of Brunei's implementation of anti-gay laws, but the industry gradually has crept its way back to the old-school eatery, now at No. 6 on THR's annual list.

"It's back," declares WME partner Richard Weitz.

The movie musical? Jazzercise? The Hummer? No, what Weitz is referring to is the Polo Lounge. 

For a while, it wasn't looking too good for the old-school haunt at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It had plummeted in The Hollywood Reporter's annual Power Lunch survey to No. 22 from No. 2 between 2014 and 2015.

That was after a boycott led by the Human Rights Campaign — in response to the Sultan of Brunei's new anti-gay policies in his country — gained traction. 

At the height of the protest, in May 2014, the restaurant was a ghost town, as evidenced by a THR lunchtime visit. Stars like Jay Leno showed up to protest the implementation of Sharia law in Brunei and major philanthropic events chaired by the likes of J.J. Abrams and Jeffrey Katzenberg relocated to other facilities.

Ellen DeGeneres tweeted that she wouldn't visit until the issue was resolved. Longtime guests Elton John and David Furnish stated, "We can't lie in a suite at the Beverly Hills and ignore the fact that the hotel is stained with the blood of gay people."

Yet the shunning was short-lived, whether due to questions over its efficacy or merely the lure of those McCarthy salads ("a favorite," says philanthropist Barbara Davis).

By last year, visitors who are either out or maintain close ties to the LGBTQ community had returned to the hotel, including Megan Ellison, Miley Cyrus and Dita Von Teese.

Now the love fest is fully in session once again for what awards consultant Lisa Taback calls the "iconic" patio and reality TV producer Arthur Smith describes as "an hour of vacation in the middle of day."

Vice executive creative director Danny Gabai, like so many, is sentimental about the Polo Lounge because of its only-in-Hollywood charm, telling THR: "I once spotted Buzz Aldrin and Gore Vidal coyly observing a group of Russian prostitutes there."

Decorator Brooke Davenport is helpless before its "old-school" allures and says the spot still offers some of the town's best "people watching," while luxury real estate agent Eric Lavey says he always stops by "when I want to be reminded of what I thought all of L.A. was like when I was 14."

Some, however, still honor the boycott by steering clear.

"I miss it," says Environmental Media Association president Debbie Levin.