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Gold Coast Roller Rink, longtime home of gay skate in Fort Lauderdale, to close after 64 years

BY DANIELA ABRATT, dabratt@MiamiHerald.com

With hip-hop music pumping, skaters lace up and glide onto the maple floor, circling round and round beneath the glittery disco ball and neon lights, sweat glistening on their foreheads.

Children give the DJ song requests, while others hurry across the purple- and yellow-tiled floor, past the purple booths to the snack bar.

“Some kids call me Auntie Juanita,” said Juanita Haugabook, 43, who works the concessions. “I know people’s names, faces. I treat them good.”

The good times end at Gold Coast Roller Rink in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday , when the 64-year-old business closes to make room for a pet parlor.

“We’re literally going to the dogs,” said Miles Miron, director of operations, who began working at the rink 24 years ago.

For Miron and the eight other employees, Gold Coast is like a second home.

“There are a lot of memories here,” Haugabook said. “I haven’t cried yet, but it hurts.”

“I’m saddened by it,” said Miron. “It’s a definitive end to a period of time in my life.”

Joe Latona, the owner for 10 years, told employees last month that he had sold the land. He was not available for comment.

Lynn Gaines, 55, of Fort Lauderdale, skated at Gold Coast when she was a youngster, then she brought her kids and now her grandkids to the rink.

“It’s really sad,” she said. “I have memories of birthdays here. Now where are we going to go?”

Gold Coast’s demise leaves South Florida with three roller rinks: Kabooms Amusement Center in Davie and Galaxy Hot Wheels Skating Center in Hollywood and North Lauderdale.

Built in 1947 at 2604 S. Federal Hwy., Gold Coast Gold Coast stood out as a bright, multicolored light in the darkness in that segregated era. Everyone — black or white —was invited in.

“You were always welcome to come skate,” Miron said. “We never turned anyone away.”

Although the rink’s style and music has changed with the times, its clientele remains diverse. Between 1,000 to 2,000 people of all ages come to the rink each week.

The entrance to the purple building advertises each night’s themes, from a Rainbow Skate gay night to Gospel and hip-hop.

Quantrel Styles, 25, began skating with friends at the rink when she was 12, and has been the rink’s DJ for the past five years. She wants the rink to be remembered for its history and as a place people could come to enjoy themselves.

“Some customers have cried” over the closing, she said. “Everybody is sad to let it go.”

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