Beverly Hills to Brunei: Drop Harsh Laws or Stake in Hotel

By Jason Kandel and Robert Kovacik
|  Wednesday, May 7, 2014  |  Updated 9:37 PM EDT
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The Beverly Hills City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday condemning the government of Brunei for its implementation of Islamic law. Robert Kovacik reports live from Beverly Hills for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

The Beverly Hills City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday condemning the government of Brunei for its implementation of Islamic law. Robert Kovacik reports live from Beverly Hills for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

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Hotel Protested Over Sultan's Repressive Laws

Demonstrators, including Jay Leno, rallied at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday to protest against the hotel’s owner, the sultan of Brunei, who recently passed laws persecuting homosexuals and women accused of adultery in his country. Conan Nolan reports from Beverly Hills for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 5, 2014.

Shariah Controversy Prompts City Council Vote

The Beverly Hills City Council was set to vote on a resolution Tuesday evening that would urge the sultan of Brunei to divest himself of ownership of the Beverly Hills hotel. The vote comes after protesters rallied against the sultan’s passing of repressive laws targeting gays and women. Mekahlo Medina reports from Beverly Hills for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
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The Beverly Hills City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday condemning the government of Brunei for its implementation of harsh new laws that could lead to the executions of people who are gay or commit adultery.

Residents packed the Beverly Hills City Council chambers on Tuesday as officials met to vote.

This resolution is calling for the government of the small Southeast Asian nation to change their new laws or divest themselves of the Beverly Hills Hotel to separate the fact that "our iconic hotel is under their ownership," said Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse. An arm of the Brunei government owns the Dorchester Collection hotel chain, which includes the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air.

"As a personal individual, I myself will not attend the Beverly Hills Hotel," Bosse said.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last week he would move ahead with implementing Shariah law, which could allow Brunei authorities to order death by stoning for some behavior, including homosexuality and adultery, and flogging and severing limbs for theft and other offenses.

"As a huge spokesperson and advocate for the LGBT community and supporter of equal rights, I find it devastating," said Lisa Vanderpump, a Los Angeles restauranteur who stars on the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."

Backlash to the sultan's announcement included calls to boycott the iconic hotel.

On Monday, former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno joined demonstrators in a protest outside the Beverly Hills Hotel.

"What year is this?" Leno, who does not support a boycott, said during the protest. "What is this, 1814? Come on, people. It's 2014."

Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, said he respects the demonstrators' right to protest, but that the chain is an autonomous company with a strict code of conduct that calls for equality and respect for everyone.

Cowdray said any economic impact from the boycott will hurt the employees, who rely on tips and service charges from guests.

"Please, I say, stop this," a Beverly Hills employee pleaded at Tuesday's meeting. A waitress at the hotel told NBC4 that without the generous tips from patrons, she may not be able to pay her rent.

The boycott has already led to the cancellation of $1.5 million in events, according to a Dorchester Collection statement signed by Cowdray.

Samia Khan contributed to this report

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