SOUNDING OFF:Woody’s owner deserves thanks

I was sad to read about the impending closure of Woody’s at the Beach, but I was very disturbed to learn that some in our community are venting anger at Joel Herzer for selling his business to a company that is not identified as gay.

Joel has every right to sell his business to whomever is willing to give him the best terms. If there is still a market in Laguna Beach for an upscale restaurant/lounge catering to the gay community, no doubt someone will open one and do so with no competition.

There is no doubt that Woody’s will be greatly missed by those of us who have gathered there over the years, huddling by the fire with a friend in the winter or pressing through the freshly tanned, post-beach crowd on the patio in the summertime.

But the more significant loss will be the departure of Joel Herzer as a member of Laguna’s gay community.


Kicking Joel in the teeth on his way out the door after years of providing us with a wonderful place to gather and enjoy our friends and make new ones is selfish, petty and indefensible.

Let’s not forget that Joel pulled together and hosted Woody’s Wreath Auction year after year, which raised tens of thousands of dollars to benefit Shanti Orange County (formerly Laguna Shanti).

This spring, Shanti Orange County will mark 20 years of providing vital services to people living with HIV/AIDS in our community, made possible in large part due to the commitment of people like Joel Herzer.

I, for one, wish Joel much success with his new endeavors in Palm Springs, and I will always be grateful for his compassion and generosity, which have made such a difference in my life and the lives of so many of my friends and neighbors.


Woody’s may be gone, but Joel Herzer’s contribution to this community during its darkest hours will never be forgotten.


  • Dan Cavanaugh is vice-chair of the board of directors of Shanti Orange County.