In the few short months since Joe Gertis purchased Irene's Lounge, a landmark roadside tavern in Tavares, his business has been vandalized multiple times with gay epithets. He also received a hate letter.
Last Thursday vandals struck again. In the early morning hours, the exterior of the business and its patio furniture was boldly slapped with yellow paint although security cameras are affixed to the building. Misspelled slurs were painted on the walls so there wouldn't be any mistake of the hate crime.
A cross-section of residents went into action encouraging the community to come together to help clean up the mess and provide support. While Gertis was away, local residents collected donations for paint and supplies and a compassionate crew arrived to paint the building. By the time the owner returned, the epithets had been covered. Gertis was clearly overwhelmed and grateful.
In addition to the paint and supplies, donations also came in the form of money, free advertising and a mural. Norm Rinne, artist and owner of Norm's Pallete wine bar in downtown Mount Dora, will paint a mural to cover the vandalized walkway in November. Some neighboring Mount Dora candidates also made donations to show their community support for diversity.
Irene's wlll be closed for the next several days for pre-scheduled improvements. Residents wishing to send a message to the vandals can stop in for a beer upon the lounge's reopening. Irene's Lounge is located at 14942 Old US Highway 441 in Tavares.