Monday, January 22, 2007

New Article on Woody's Closure

dear friends -- thought you would be interested in seeing the story from yesterday's Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot by Cindy Frazier. -- full story below as well --

there is a link at the bottom of the story to send in a letter or comment to the editor of the paper. take a minute and write a few sentences on how you feel about the closure of Woodys and the changes going on in Laguna.

thanks very much.

Modified Jan 11, 2007 - 22:12:08 PST
Woody's sold to Mexican dining chain
Gay establishment turns over to a new owner Feb. 3. Boom Boom Room activist 'optimistic' that gays will be welcome.

By Cindy FrazierReader Feedback - Currently 0 Comments
Woody’s, the restaurant/bar that is popular in the gay community, has been sold and will reopen as Avila’s El Ranchito Mexican restaurant.

Another gay-oriented establishment in Laguna Beach is on the way out. Woody's at the Beach restaurant will close Feb. 3, and reopen as Avila's El Ranchito Mexican restaurant. Avila's is a 40-year-old family-run business that owns 10 restaurants in Orange and Los Angeles counties and features traditional Mexican dining, according to its Web site. Woody's owner Joel Herzer announced the sale last week on his restaurant's Web site. In a letter dated Jan. 3, Herzer wrote:"To Our Guests:"After nearly a decade serving the community we have sold Woody's at the Beach effective in February. "We would like to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to everyone who has made these past years what they were. It is never an easy decision to leave a part of your life behind, especially one that has been so integral and affirming as Woody's has been to us. The community has been a family to us and we will miss the day to day experiences that together we shared. "Thank you again for the privilege of becoming part of your lives."The location has long been integral to the gay community in Laguna Beach, which is centered on the two blocks that include Woody's and the legendary Boom Boom Room — which is now in its final year of operation at the site.Woody's has been at the Coast Highway site for about 10 years; previously the location housed Little Shrimp, a bar/restaurant with a noted piano bar, and others preceded it. The vine-covered cottage-style structure has housed gay-oriented establishments for about 50 years." There is so much history in that two-block area," said Fred Karger, a gay activist who launched a high-profile campaign to save the Boom Boom Room.Herzer said the decision to sell Woody's was personal. "It was a lifestyle issue," Herzer said. "I wanted to spend more time with my family and we have two other restaurants in the Palm Springs area." The sudden sale of the restaurant took some by surprise, but Herzer said he had not contemplated attempting to find a gay buyer or operator for the restaurant. "We watched what happened at the Coast Inn and Boom Boom Room, looking for a gay owner, and didn't want to be on the market that long," Herzer said. The Coast Inn and the adjacent Boom Boom Room were up for sale for a year before being purchased by an investor who reportedly plans a major redevelopment. The Boom Boom Room — famed as the hangout of Rock Hudson and other stars — was granted a one-year reprieve by the new owner, who agreed to a lease extension that will end in September. Karger said he is not disheartened by the turnover of Woody's to a family-oriented restaurant chain. "I will miss Woody's, but the new owner has told me 'we cater to the community'," Karger said. "They will be gay-friendly." Karger said he is trying to convince the Avilas to reopen the restaurant with a hip, Tex-Mex theme — like Marix in West Hollywood — that will attract a young crowd and enliven the nightlife scene in the area. "Woody's was very high-priced and that attracts a different type of customer," Karger said.

"The Woody's crowd is in bed by 9:30. A trendy restaurant will be a huge draw, and I've offered to do anything I can do to help. I think it could be a huge success." The Avila family could not be reached for comment. Karger is optimistic that the "gay area" in Laguna Beach will continue to attract gays and lesbians despite the changes. "There is a misconception that there are no gay people left here," Karger said. "We have a tremendous gay population in Orange County. The population has shifted, and many are moving to Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills, because they are no longer unwelcome. "Karger says that integration of gays and lesbians into the general population has altered the dynamic of the gay scene in Laguna Beach, but has not eliminated it. Herzer said a closing party will take place on the last day the restaurant will be open, Feb. 3.

For more information, call the restaurant at (949) 376-8809.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK - Is Laguna's gay-friendly orientation threatened by the loss of gay-owned businesses? Write us at P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, CA, 92652, e-mail us at or fax us at 494-8979. Please give your name and tell us your home address and phone number for verification purposes only.

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