The city’s resolution, passed in a 5-0 vote, also calls for Brunei to divest ownership of the iconic property if it does not drop plans for the draconian laws, which include punishment like stoning to death for gay and lesbian relationships. It also calls on the country to drop investments of any other properties it owns in Beverly Hills.
Mayor Lili Bosse, who said she made a “personal decision” not to return to the hotel, called the planned laws in Brunei “shocking and inhumane,” and said they “must be met with a strong statement of support for the human rights of the people of Brunei.” She said that the decision to boycott should be a “personal choice.”
“We are standing for human rights, we are standing for dignity and we are standing for those who don’t have a voice,” said Bosse, who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
The hotel is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, controlled by the government and the sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah.
The City Council meeting was marked by strong emotions.
Robert Tanenbaum, the trial attorney and novelist, called on a stronger resolution that declared a boycott, calling the millions that the city collects in bed taxes and other taxes “blood money.”
“You cannot bifurcate the asset that gives money back to Brunei, that continues its horrendous and inhumane policies,” he said.
Jimmy Delshad, former mayor of the city, called on a stronger statement, saying that it is “important to make bigger noise than just that.”
“I think the Beverly Hills Hotel should not be a centennial sponsor for Beverly Hills,” he said, calling for a citywide boycott.
Robert S. Anderson, whose great-grandmother opened the hotel in 1912 and who is its official historian, said that if the council was singling out the property, they should address other properties with ownership by countries with repressive laws. He also said that the council’s action could be perceived “that it is a war on Muslims that you are declaring here tonight.”
“The Beverly Hills Hotel does not send any money back to Brunei,” he said. “It is reinvested in the community, in the hotel.”
He said that the hotel has already seen a drop off of about $1.5 million in bookings.
A number of employees spoke out in support of the hotel, warning that the boycott was misdirected.
“I have been told by someone that comes on a regular basis that we are a collateral damage,” said one employee, who said she already has noticed a slowdown in business.
The CEO of the Dorchester Collection, Christopher Cowdray, said that this was a “global issue. It is not just about the sultan of Brunei. These laws exist in other parts of the world.” But he said that he didn’t see the council take action “refuting laws in those countries.”
Although he warned of the message that a boycott would send, particularly for tourism to the Los Angeles area, he said that he would make sure that employees were protected if business dropped.