NEWS UPDATE February 29, 2008
Dear Friends – well, it has been a crazy week and you can see why by all of the media coverage. There was an in depth story about our continuing fight to save our landmark Coast Inn and the Boom by Candice Baker in the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot.
Coast Inn owner, Mr. Udvar-Hazy finally met the press for the first time in the 2 years of our campaign to SAVE the BOOM!!! this week. I have included the story which is a revised version of the one that I sent you last Saturday by Christa Woodall of the Orange County Register.
Also, a wonderful story by Margaret Foster with well respected Preservation Magazine based in Washington, DC about our preservation fight right here in Laguna Beach.
And more national coverage about the Boom and our Post Card Campaign to Mr. Udvar-Hazy on MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal Online!
If you have time, try and read these stories, you will see that there are still many opportunities to save our landmark bar and over 100 years of gay history in Laguna Beach along with it.
Thank you so much for all or your interest and support as we work to SAVE the BOOM – Forever!!!
Updated: Feb 28,
Fight for Boom not over, activist says
Despite reports that redevelopment of site is imminent, Fred Karger is still campaigning to save iconic gay bar.
By Candice BakerReader Feedback - Currently No comments posted. Comments
Whether the Boom Boom Room and Coast Inn are heading into redevelopment or not, Fred Karger isn’t giving up the fight to keep Laguna’s gay center from disappearing.The owner of the emblematic center of Laguna Beach’s gay community has reportedly reverted back to his original plan to turn the site into a boutique hotel, following its quiet withdrawal from the real estate market Feb. 1.“It’s not over,” said Karger, founder of Save the Boom, who has been waging a highly public campaign to keep the 80-year-old bar afloat.Karger said “for sale” signs remained in the windows as of Sunday and that prospective buyers were recently touring the property.The nearly 19,000-square-foot property was pulled from the market by billionaire Steven Udvar-Hazy less than six months after the “for sale” signs went up, according to real estate agent Joseph Smith.“He doesn’t want to be bothered with [the sale],” Smith said.Smith said the property wasn’t posted on a listing service, but was made available on a more informal, informational basis from September 2007 through January 2008, with an asking price of $20 million to $20.9 million.He added that aviation tycoon Udvar-Hazy has retained Laguna architect Morris Skenderian to resurrect an original plan to bring the Coast Inn, built in 1924, back to its historic heyday.Udvar-Hazy is working with Skenderian on the project in order to prevent the investment from staying “stagnant,” Smith said.Udvar-Hazy’s Emerald Financial LLC paid nearly $13 million for the 24-room hotel, its restaurant and bar in April 2005.He also bought a beachfront house and the Coast Liquor store, as well as the nearby Gay Mart, in the shopping spree for a reported grand total of $25 million.Thought by many to be the oldest gay bar in the western United States, the Boom catered to movie star celebrities like Rock Hudson and everyday patrons alike.Bar operators were given a one-year reprieve in August 2006; the establishment closed last year on Labor Day.The closure echoed that of Woody’s at the Beach, a gay restaurant, formerly the Little Shrimp piano bar. Woody’s closed last February.The Boom’s threatened closure sparked grassroots efforts by local resident Karger and his Save the Boom campaign, including petition collection and the sale of a Men of Laguna Beach calendar.Karger’s mission was fueled by celebrity gossip from the beginning.Rumors that Udvar-Hazy was in cahoots with actors George Clooney and Brad Pitt to renovate the property took wing as quickly as they were shot down.Most recently, Karger recruited celebrities including Florence Henderson of “The Brady Bunch” and “The Nanny” Fran Drescher in a postcard-writing campaign.But despite continued publicity, many viewings and proclamations of interest, the property never changed hands.“Obviously, if there was anyone serious, it would be sold,” Smith said.“These are not the easiest of times when it comes to real estate.”
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Restoration planned for Boom Boom Room property
Former home of landmark Laguna Beach gay bar to be renovated to 1940s-style boutique hotel.
By CHRISTA WOODALL
The Orange County Register
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LAGUNA BEACH - The Coast Inn, which housed longtime gay landmark the Boom Boom Room, will be restored to its 1940s style under a plan by the inn's owners.
The restoration plans virtually dash hopes in the gay community that their longtime watering hole will reopen in its location within the Coast Inn.
Emerald Financial LLC, of which aviation mogul Steven Udvar-Hazy is a partner, took down the for sale sign Feb. 1.
"We're trying to restore it back to what it looked like in the early '40s," said architect Morris Skenderian.
Despite Hazy's offer of an extended, month-to-month lease, Boom owners Patrick O'Loughlin and James Marchese opted to close the bar in September 2007.
In the face of strong opposition from the gay community, Emerald Financial had put the land and two nearby parcels for sale after its April 2005 purchase with an asking price of more than $20 million.
Emerald Financial had entertained offers to sell the properties, but August's subprime real estate crisis became a roadblock for interested buyers who couldn't get loans or afford the down payment.
When no good offers had surfaced by January, Hazy decided to move ahead preserving the inn.
"They've (prospective buyers) had a window of opportunity to present alternate plans, and those didn't come forth," Hazy said. "I don't want to let it sit there as a dilapidated building – I think it's better for the community and the city if we develop it, bring in tax revenue and upgrade the safety of the neighborhood."
Save the Boom activist Fred Karger, who continues to work toward reviving the bar, said he's hopeful that Hazy might reconsider his plans and donate the property to the gay community or reduce the price.
"There's so much history that we're not prepared to walk away from," Karger said. "There's a tremendous amount of gay money out there that I'm hoping to tap to take over his property, but in the meantime, I'll do everything in my power to hold onto what was ours for 61 years."
With Coast Inn's four beach-facing levels, razing and rebuilding a new structure was never an option, Hazy said.
"We wouldn't be able to replicate that today," he said. "It creates a lot of intrinsic value. If we tore that down, we would never replace four levels, even with the best of intentions."
Spanish-style arches and balconies would return to the building's entrance as it had been before a '60s-era fire.
Facing Coast Highway, what was once the Boom Boom Room could be an art gallery or a salon, Skenderian said.
Across Mountain Street, the liquor store nicknamed the Gaymart would become a market and deli that caters to locals, tourists and beach-goers.
A food facility within the hotel was considered but likely will be elminated.
"Right now it's so dilapidated in there and there's so much work to bring it up to code," Skenderian said. "There are so many restaurants in that area now ... "
Construction for the project may take a year and a half after getting approval, which likely would take another year and a half, Skenderian said.
All groups will be welcomed to the inn, Hazy said.
"It's a big project, but I feel the end result will be a high-quality structure with desirable accommodations," he said. "Once we're open, we're open to all people who can afford that type of upscale accommodation."
Meanwhile, Karger is working to flood Hazy's Los Angeles office with yellow "Save the Boom" protest cards. To date, he knows of at least 200 cards that have been sent, including ones signed by "The Brady Bunch" actress Florence Henderson and Fran Drescher of "The Nanny" fame.
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Group Asks Billionaire To Spare 1920s InnStory by Margaret Foster / Feb. 25, 2008
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Supporters of what's being called the oldest gay bar in the country—the oceanfront "Boom Boom Room," which opened in Laguna Beach, Calif., in the 1940s—have hope this month that the building's new owner might want to offload the controversial property rather than raze it for a new hotel.
Steven Udvar-Hazy, who bought the building in 2005 for $12.9 million, took it off the market on Feb. 1, worrying some locals. But the "for sale" signs are still posted, and two potential sellers viewed it last week, according to Fred Karger, who is leading a grassroots effort to save the club.
"Some people are discouraged, but a lot of people have new hope that good will will prevail, that he will come around and do the right thing," says Karger, who last month launched "Operation Postcard," a asking Hazy to lower his price of $20 million or donate the building to the city. "I'm not suggesting he'd take a loss, but I'm hoping he'll be more reasonable in light of the history of this bar."
Hazy bought the 24-room inn and two nearby properties, planning to bulldoze them and build an 11-room boutique hotel on the site. In 2006, he extended the Boom Boom Room's lease for one year, but it finally closed last September.
"This is a commercial property and not a trophy for one group," Hazy told the Laguna Beach Independent.
Opened as the Coast Inn in the 1920s, the bar was a military hangout and later, in the 1970s, a gay bar. Now known as "the Boom," the building is now the city's second-oldest hotel.
"It needs work. The previous owners did not main it at all," Karger says. "It could be a very beautiful place to restore."
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