Ryan Jimenez believes that visiting the Hotel Tides in Asbury is special on its own. The owners, Susan and Doug Morrison, trust him to make a home out of the hotel for the Asbury community to visit. “It’s rare to have that support from your ownership, staff and customers. “It’s a great trifecta. I’m a very lucky gal!” says Jimenez
I walk up to Hotel Tides and I can hear Jimenez and friends chuckling on the porch through cigarette smoke and sharing endless, joyous stories. “Do you mind if I finish this,” said Jimenez pulling up a fourth seat. The intimacy of the porch feels like home: to sit with a cup of coffee at sunrise and a newspaper until sunset before shifting resting bones inside to lounge.
As we sit on the comfortable grey couches overlooking cascading water, Jimenez answers a ringing phone. “They want to secure a room for June,” he announces in amusement. “I told them they have plenty of time.” The relaxed Jimenez chuckles into his seat. The same customer called another two times.
Hotel Tides comes with a rich and transformative history. A beacon of community and integration, the hotel opened up as the St. Laurent 125 years ago under the ownership of Susan Flynn. After opening as a luxury hotspot on the rim of Asbury Park’s entertainment, St. Laurent became a place for people to sink into after spending their day swimming, fishing and gallivanting in Asbury Park. Ownership transferred to S.A. Davis in 1915. It wasn’t until 1941 that the hotel was repurchased by Mr. and Mrs. Neglia and renamed Tides Hotel, an Italian and American eatery and weekend escape. The 1950s opened up a new freedom for Americans—and Asbury Park. As mobility and time became more accessible to people, so did weekends by the shore.
Nevertheless, as racial tensions bloomed, change continued within Asbury Park and at Tides. As businesses fled the city, Tides Hotel navigated the change through short-term and long-term rentals, creating a space to house, room, and help people through the summer. Long time guest, PJ Whelan recalls summer of 1972: “My college roommate and I arrived with about $100 in our pockets, determined to find a place to stay and a job on the Jersey Shore. After two days sleeping under the boardwalk and living on junk food, the owners of the Tides took pity on us and gave us a great rate with one double bed to share… for the whole summer!”
At the turn of the century, Tides Hotel renovated and reopened as Hotel Tides. The refreshed Tides grew with the LGBTQ community that would blossom in the ever changing city.
Keeping with the heart of the community, the Tides keeps the hotel integrated and influential in the city. Asbury Park continues to change. As the city continues to undergo gentrification, the work of Ryan Jimenez becomes even more relevant to the roots of the hotel.
“Asbury was a different animal,” said Jimenez when discussing the difference of Asbury Park 14 years ago to today. “I experienced growing pains,” said Jimenez about his privileges as an openly gay man in a gentrifying Asbury Park.
It’s a different time to be queer in Asbury Park from the early 2000s, but Jimenez says there is inclusivity if queer people don’t have to worry about engaging with violence when walking down the streets. This is the kind of change Jimenez recognizes in gratefulness. “Consider the source. The way [nonbinary people and transgender people] are offended now was the way I was offended 24 years ago as a gay man,” said Jimenez. Jimenez says that Tides is a safe space for all members of the community.
Jimenez grew up in Paterson, where his mother taught him and his two older brothers to be self-sufficient. His upbringing led him to be confident in his identity when coming out. “I was every stereotype you could’ve imagined,” said Jimenez discussing this hindsight of his younger self.
He said it was rare for him to have an issue being openly gay, and couldn’t care less what people thought. “People smell fear. I never looked back—I was my own person,” said a confident Jimenez. Holding your own in a given space tends to garner respect of others, and this is what Jimenez attributes his lifelong respect to. He says that some people use words that other people would deem offensive, but he says this is the language of the community he grew up with—and has always known. He says the language he hears neither changes the love held for him nor the community.
Having started his young adulthood studying the vast realm of production, Jimenez became a part of And Baby Magazine. The publication catered to the parents of LGBT children. In marketing the magazine, Jimenez spent a lot of time traveling in support of LGBT parents, alongside organizations such as the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network and Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Unfortunately, the magazine didn’t take off. At the time, there was neither an embracing society nor a supportive family demographic for LGBT children for And Baby to survive.
“I remember Cathy Renna came in here,” said Jimenez referring to her visiting the Tides at the time. She was the director of news and media for GLAAD for 14-years. “You’re Cathy Renna,” he said. And the two looked at each other and reminisced on a different time—2004.
It was a different time for communications and production for the LGBTs. The first episode of The L Word made it to the Showtime network, just four years after Queer as Folk (2000). Nevertheless, it was still difficult to penetrate the entertainment realm as queer folk in the 90s and 2000s. Similar to And Baby, the LGBT community was under-represented, disrespectfully represented, or completely absent on television.
With that said, Jimenez was working with a lesbian television pilot called Hammer and Nails with Here TV after producing a six part series on LGBTQ parenting stemming from his work with And Baby Magazine. Unfortunately, the pilot did not take off. Jimenez changed his pace and got out of the riot that is Manhattan. Fourteen years ago, Ryan moved to Asbury Park. He volunteered with The Center over on Third Avenue for three years before he stumbled on his residency with Hotel Tides. In fact, it will be Jimenez’s 10 year anniversary at Tides this May.
“The owners of Hotel Tides are hands off and very supportive,” said Jimenez as it applies to what he is able to do for natural disaster relief, Asbury Park, and the LGBTQ community. For nearly 10 years, Jimenez has multi-tasked the functions of Tides as a place of culture, heart, and kindness, and as a result he has been noticed.
Jimenez’s earned the New Jersey Pride Center’s Leadership Award and received a proclamation from the city of Asbury Park for his contributions and continued work in the city. When people see there is community and effort for others (especially in business and not for the profit) organic support is reciprocated. “I do this because I can,” said Jimenez.
He sits at peace on an adjacent couch. He mentions that he has been producing the annual adult Pink Prom and its after party, which has raised $40,000 over the years for various LGBTQ organizations, including the Pride Network, Project REAL and many others.
Additionally, the Hotel Tides hosts an annual food drive for Fulfill and Catsbury Park, as well as an annual “TIPS for Toys” for the Asbury Park Toy Drive. Hotel Tides produces Asbury Park Bear Weekend and the Cupcake Bake Off, which in its third year raised money for hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the wildfires in California.
The season for Tides is just beginning. From Sunday night jazz to the coming Pink Prom, to many LGBTQ pride events—there is a lot to look forward to. For more information on dates, rentals, events, and the history of Hotel Tides visit their website.