Laguna Beach will see the end of an icon as the Boom Boom Room, one of Laguna’s mainstay gay attractions, and the adjoining Coast Inn will finally shut their doors after Labor Day.
The property, along with the Coast Liquor store and Gay Mart across the street from the Inn, was purchased in 2006 by aviation billionaire Steven Udvar-Hazy who planned to rebuild a boutique hotel on the site.
Udvar-Hazy gave the Boom a year-long reprieve on a lease in August 2006. That lease ends Sept. 3 — Labor Day — and business at the Boom Boom Room and Coast Inn ends with it. Patrick O’Laughlin, one of the co-operators of the bar and the hotel, said the bar’s end was just in the nature of business.
“The property is going to become something other than it has been for a long time and that’s just what it is,” O’Laughlin said.
O’Laughlin doesn’t expect there to be another agreement to allow the bar to stay in the works longer. He doesn’t foresee anyone coming in to keep the bar open especially since he believes Udvar-Hazy plans to start renovating the property within a year’s time. He said keeping the bar open would be an investment that may not have time to show dividends.
"[Udvar-Hazy’s] hopeful that a renovation is going to be able to be started in the next year,” O’Laughlin said. “If you don’t know how long you have to get back [a return] on your investment, I just don’t see anyone doing that for a business.”
Attempts to reach Udvar-Hazy for comment were unsuccessful.
Fred Karger, founder of the grassroots Save the Boom campaign, said he wasn’t surprised to see the watering hole going dry in September, but that isn’t going to stop the organization from trying to achieve its goal.
Karger hopes to keep the Boom open while plans are being made for the buildings restoration. He said he hopes the length of time needed to obtain the necessary permits to restore the building and bring in a new business will be long enough to keep the bar open if Save the Boom is able to find an investor to sink money into it.
“It makes no sense to have an empty building,” Karger said.
Karger disagrees with the project’s estimated timetable and said he thinks three years until the project gets underway is more realistic. He said the process of obtaining building permits, design reviews and conditional use permits will slow the process down considerably.
“It’s a little more difficult than building a new home,” Karger said. “I think that while the process is taking place it would make sense to keep it open.”
Karger and the activists of Save the Boom hope to keep the historic bar open on the basis of preserving a piece of gay history. They are also concerned that without the iconic gay establishments around Laguna, the city will lose some of it’s reputation as an open sexual orientation haven.
“If there’s no gay anchor like a bar like the Boom, they’re not going to come to Laguna anymore,” Karger said.