Monday, August 21, 2006

The Advocate Reports the News

Thought that you would be intersted in this story from this week's Advocate, which is the largest national gay magazine:

August 18, 2006

Fabled Laguna Beach gay bar gets reprieve

Fabled gay bar the Boom Boom Room in Laguna Beach, Calif., where the likes of Rock Hudson, Paul Lynde, and Bette Midler once partied, has been saved from closure, at least for now. After it was purchased by a Beverly Hills businessman last year, the infamous Boom Boom Room was slated to close on September 4 to make way for an upscale hotel and restaurant on the South Coast Highway property.

But Patrick O'Laughlin and James Marchese, co-owners of the Boom Boom Room and the adjacent Coast Inn, came to terms with building owner Steven Udvar-Hazy on Wednesday to extend the bar's lease for one more year. "It's like Christmas in August," Fred Karger, who founded the group SAVE the BOOM!!! said in a statement. "This is the best possible news, and we are so grateful to Mr. Hazy for giving the oldest gay bar in the Western United States new life."

Karger, a retired Republican political consultant and former actor, gathered close to 5,000 signatures to persuade the city and new owner to keep the bar open. "It's a symbol for us.... This is history, and you don't erase history without a fight," Karger recently told the Los Angeles Times. "This is a battle for the heart and soul of gay life here."

O'Loughlin and Marchese bought the 24-room Coast Inn and the adjoining Boom Boom Room property for $2 million in 2000 but struggled to make it work as Laguna Beach's gay population dwindled. "At the time the demographics were there to support the place, but our experience shows that the demographics have shifted," O'Loughlin told the Times. "I saw a huge decline in the gay population—maybe 50%—and you didn't get more gays in to replenish it. This has become a place where the super-rich live."

O'Loughlin and Marchese sold the property last year for about $10 million to a group of investors who resold it a few months later for nearly $13 million to Udvar-Hazy, a Beverly Hills airplane-leasing mogul. Asked if there were any way he would keep the bar open after that, Udvar-Hazy seemed doubtful. "That's a hard question," he said. "A new hotel would be quite upscale, and I'm not sure from a development point of view that it is compatible with the Boom Boom Room."

But Karger is committed to saving "the Boom." "We look forward to keeping our SAVE the BOOM!!! campaign alive and hope during the next 12 months we can convince [Udvar-Hazy] that these landmark businesses should remain a vital part of Laguna Beach," he said. "This fight is essential to the gay community that live in and visit Laguna Beach. The historic Coast Inn and Boom Boom Room represent our past and our future." (The Advocate)

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