The race is on to find a gay buyer who can afford $19 million for the landmark Boom Boom Room and Coast Inn, after Steven Udvar Hazy decided not to build a hotel in Laguna Beach.
Hazy, who bought the legendary bar and an adjacent liquor store a little more than a year ago, is putting the properties back on the market.
Fred Karger of Save the Boom, which gathered thousands of signatures on petitions asking the Laguna Beach City Council to keep the bar intact, is pleased that Hazy is pulling out.
“It’s our spot, and it has been for 60 years. We’re not giving up, and we’re going to fight for it,” Karger said.
Hazy, a billionaire airline businessman, originally bought the property in hopes of developing it into a boutique hotel.
According to Los Angeles-based real estate agent Christian Goodell, who is working on the sale with Hazy, Hazy has decided to open his hotel elsewhere in Orange County.
“He has been trying to do a development there that doesn’t look like its going to fly for whatever reason and he is moving the concept to a different site,” Goodell said.
The Goodell Group, which is part of Keller Williams Real Estate, has experience dealing with boutique hotels as well as predominantly gay establishments such as the San Vicente Inn in West Hollywood, Goodell said.
Goodell said that while Hazy is open to selling to buyer who would preserve the Boom Boom Room as a gay establishment, Hazy is overall a businessman, and Goodell expects him to take whatever the best offer is.
“There are questions as to whether we can beat the clock,” Goodell said. “The race is on to see whether I can find a gay operator before he sells to the highest bidder.”
Goodell said he expects the price to be around $19 million for the bar and hotel, as well as the liquor store across the street on So. Coast Highway.
He said Hazy would most likely want to keep the properties together to sell as a package.
“Ideally he would like to sell the Coast Inn and the Boom and the adjacent liquor store together,” Goodell said.
Goodell said there are already a number of offers, but no decisions have yet been made.
Hazy did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Karger is working with Goodell in seeking a gay benefactor to purchase the bar.
“We’ll only be happy if the new owners agree to keep it a primarily gay establishment,” Karger said.
Karger said the Boom had a record season last summer and with Woody’s, another gay fixture in Laguna, gone, he expects it to be even busier this summer.
He described buying the bar as a good business idea.
“This could be a goldmine,” Karger said.
Karger said he feels it’s important to preserve places like the Boom Boom Room as mementos of the era before anti- gay discrimination laws went into effect in Laguna Beach and elsewhere.
Because there were no churches or other places for gays to gather openly, they congregated at “watering holes,” Karger said.
Karger’s campaign to save the Boom kicked off a year ago during Memorial Day weekend, 2006.
Karger and his supporters gathered thousands of signatures in support of keeping the bar open, many of which came from Laguna Beach.
“It’s been very unique because for the first time ever the gay community went out into the town and asked for help and we got a resounding show of support,” Karger said.
After Karger’s campaign took off, Hazy agreed to give the Boom operators a one-year lease extension, until September.
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