A lot of anger is being directed at the owner of Woody’s restaurant after the revelation that the longtime gay establishment would be turned over to a Mexican restaurant chain on Feb. 3. That’s less than two weeks away.
The prospective new operator has reportedly indicated to one person that he will “cater to the community” — and, while it may be wishful thinking that the “community” he refers to will be Laguna’s gay community, it’s a nice thought.
Some who are angry want to punish Woody’s owner by refusing to patronize other establishments he operates.
They are furious that he apparently took no steps to try to find a gay owner to keep the place operating as a gay haven.
The soon-to-be-former owner, Joel Herzer, has responded that he didn’t want to launch a public search for a new gay owner because he didn’t want to alarm his employees and also because he felt it would be a futile effort.
Herzer points to the year-long effort by the owner of the Boom Boom Room and Coast Inn to find someone in the gay community to take over that location, to no avail.
It would be unrealistic to expect Herzer or any property owner in Laguna Beach not to engage in sound business practices when looking to sell.
Property values in Laguna Beach have gone through the roof, and it’s very difficult to find someone with deep pockets who wants to serve a relatively small segment of Laguna Beach.
The new owner of the Boom Boom Room and Coast Inn reportedly has big plans for the spectacular ocean-view property, and the Boom Boom Room will have to go.
Somehow, the sudden demise of cozy little Woody’s — remembered by many as “Little Shrimp” — has hit people harder than the long-drawn-out death of the legendary nightspot where Rock Hudson held court.
It’s as if a safety net for gays in Laguna and beyond has been pulled away. It’s a stab in the tender heart of a community that has survived many hard times — including having the highest per capita incidence of AIDS and HIV in the nation.
Optimists point out that the climate for gays and lesbians has changed, and, in the New Millennium, gays and straights mix together as never before.
The social segregation that many of the older generation grew up with and take for granted has been all but erased by a new generation that doesn’t see what the big deal is in being straight or gay.
Still, it’s very hard to give up a longtime security blanket, and intimate, friendly Woody’s was one.
When Woody’s is no more, and an Avila’s El Ranchito restaurant is in its place, we’ll see if gays feel comfortable there or not. We doubt you’ll see same-sex couples holding hands and openly flirting.
The fact is that Laguna Beach is fast losing its status as a sanctuary for the gay community — and that is sad.