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Hotel Laguna reopens lobby and restaurant to public after long restoration

Guests enjoy the new surroundings in the lounge of the newly renovated restaurant and lobby at the Hotel Laguna.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

After four years, the Hotel Laguna is resuming operations with the reopening of the historic building’s ground-floor lobby and restaurant area.

The partial reopening of the Hotel Laguna is the first step in the restoration of the property, for which the Laguna Beach Co. has a long-term lease.

A ribbon-cutting event Tuesday celebrated the completion of the first phase of the renovation project, as well as the return of the public to the hotel.

Mo Honarkar, the founder of the Laguna Beach Co., shared that his vision for the Hotel Laguna includes it acting as an extension of the living rooms of Laguna Beach residents, a place where people can come for drinks, meals, gatherings and meetings.

Mo Honarkar is given a certificate of recognition from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Mo Honarkar is given a certificate of recognition from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Hotel Laguna on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

He added that Laguna Beach attracts people who enjoy an active lifestyle.

“You come and stay within Laguna because you want to learn about Laguna, you want to experience Laguna — the beautiful beaches here, the beautiful restaurants that we have, Pageant of the Masters, the museum,” Honarkar said.

“You will be able to walk everywhere here. You don’t have to bring your car.”

The Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday concurred with a city staff report outlining a plan to allow for Hotel Laguna to reopen its restaurant and lobby.

The Hotel Laguna will now be home to two new restaurants in Larsen — named after the original ‘Greeter’ in Laguna Beach, Eiler Larsen — and a Japanese restaurant called Fin. The menus and reservations for both restaurants will be available on OpenTable.

Craig Strong, who will be serving as the executive chef for the Hotel Laguna, said that the restaurants will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and from 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner.

The community is familiar with Strong’s work, including when he served as executive chef of Studio at the Montage. He joked that his success was the result of the views that accompanied the meals he prepared.

Guests gather to look at a wall of old photos of Laguna Beach in the hallway at the Hotel Laguna.
Guests gather to look at a wall of old photos of Laguna Beach in the hallway of the newly renovated restaurant and lobby at the Hotel Laguna.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I think the best thing is that people are just excited to see the building come back alive,” Strong said. “So far so good. It helps to have this view. I used to tell people I was cheating — the food tasted better because the view was great — and I hope I get to continue with that.

“You come in in a good mood. You’re ready. You’re ready to have fun when you come into an environment like this. It’s beautiful. It feels like Southern California.”

The order was issued in May after city officials discovered work had been done on the historic property’s exterior without permits.

Honarkar received congratulatory plaques from Rep. Michelle Steel, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris and O.C. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was also attended by the Laguna Beach City Council and city staff.

“There is a saying that says good things come to those who wait,” Bartlett said in her remarks. “But not to those who wait too late … you’ve certainly waited a long time, so congratulations.”

Guest Merry Tungka looks at the artwork in the sushi room of the newly renovated restaurant and lobby at the Hotel Laguna.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Some community members had a chance to preview the new-look first floor through three open house events over the past two weeks. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served as attendees checked out the furnishings and artwork adorning the walls.

The hallway leading from the entrance down to the dining area allows guests to review the lifespan of the building, which has stood since 1930, through the medium of historic photographs. Five chandeliers shimmer from the ceiling above.

An outdoor terrace and the dining area overlook the Pacific Ocean, while those in the bar area are surrounded by large pieces of marine- and floral-inspired art. One of the artworks displays a diving helmet above the fireplace.

Mo Honarkar with his grandson Truth, 3, cuts a ribbon for the new Hotel Laguna with Mayor Bob Whalen on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“There’s nowhere in the world quite like Laguna Beach, or like Hotel Laguna,” Hasty Honarkar, vice president of the Laguna Beach Co., said in a statement.

“We have worked diligently to honor this unique location by putting tremendous care and attention into every detail of this renovation. We are extremely excited for Laguna residents to visit the property and experience it for themselves. We aim to make the city proud, and I am confident they will not be disappointed.”

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Mayor Bob Whalen said that he felt the restoration and reopening of the Hotel Laguna would contribute to bringing energy back to the downtown area.

“We are definitely coming out of the pandemic, investment coming back into the community,” Whalen said. “It feels good after the long, dark winter of COVID and empty buildings.”

Art from local artists adorn the new bar lounge area at the Hotel Laguna.
Art from local artists adorn the new bar lounge area at the Hotel Laguna.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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