“Save the Boom” support exploded in 2006 in the wake of fears that the landmark Boom Boom Room bar would no longer cater to the gay community under new ownership.
Almost 6,000 petitions gathered last year were delivered Tuesday night to the City Council in an effort to gain official support to keep the Boom Boom Room — and by extension the city — gay-friendly.
“It is the oldest continuing gay bar in the Western United States,” Save the Boom founder Fred Karger told the council. “We are asking for your support.”
About 20 people in the audience at the meeting wore Save the Boom stickers and six of them spoke, including a representative of Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
An eloquent letter from former Mayor Bob Gentry, read into the record by Mayor Toni Iseman, also supported the effort to save the Boom but dwelt on the larger issue of preserving the city’s reputation in California and around the world as a place for the gay community to live, work, invest and vacation.
Gentry, who is believed to be the first openly gay mayor of a city in the U.S., served as co-chair of the Save the Boom campaign with Rosendahl.
In his statement, Rosendahl said he first visited Laguna in 1981, and Gentry was already a leader in the gay community.
“Now I have the distinct honor of being the first openly gay man to be elected to the Los Angeles City Council,” Rosendahl wrote. “As a local elected official, I know the power and clout of the bully pulpit that you enjoy as elected officials of your city. You have the power to help shape policy and in this instance save an all-important landmark of the gay community.”
None of the speakers could speculate on the future of the gay bar. They said the new owner has not made public his plans since he agreed last year to renew the bar lease for at least one year.
“If you [council] were looking at the closure of the last drug store in Laguna, you’d be looking at this differently,” James Vaughn said.
Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman was the first one on the dais to offer support.
“I will give you any help I can,” Kinsman said. “I am a member of the Log Cabin Club [Republican group that supports gay issues], and you are all so cute.”
Councilwoman Jane Egly echoed Kinsman’s support and shared a note she sent to Iseman: “Such cute guys.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Schneider, also a member of the Log Cabin Club, said the council cannot control private property, but she supports the notion of Laguna as a place where gay men and lesbians can feel welcome and comfortable.
At one time the city felt so protective about the gay community, police officers were on call at night to walk bar patrons to their vehicles.
“The gay community is part of Laguna, and I hope we always have a Boom Boom Room somewhere in Laguna Beach,” Schneider said.
Karger said the city can demand concessions from private property owners as it did with Athens Group, when Montage Resort & Spa was being developed.
Councilman Kelly Boyd also pledged support for the continued operation of the Boom as a gay haven.
“I have the most history with the Coast Inn [hotel],” Boyd said. “I worked there when I was 11 and my father had the restaurant.”
Boyd also worked in the restaurant as an adult, but his tie to the gay community is much stronger than former employment.
“My little brother is from the gay community,” Boyd said. “You have a long history in Laguna Beach, since the 1920s.”
Iseman said if the gay community loses the Boom Boom Room, it should find another restaurant and make it their own.
“I don’t like the word tolerance,” Iseman said. “I like the word embrace. We embrace the gay community.”
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Should the city get involved in retaining a gay-friendly atmosphere in Laguna Beach? Write us at P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, CA, 92652, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax us at 494-8979. Please give your name and tell us your home address and phone number for verification purposes only.