Smart businessperson could revitalize gay places

Laguna Beach Mayor Elizabeth Pearson's statement that we as a town are tolerant is true, ("Coast Inn project OK'd," July 9) but her statements that "every bar and restaurant is a gay and straight bar" is questionable. Pearson and Councilwoman Jane Egly are slightly out of touch with reality. The Boom Boom Room and Coast Inn was a destination bar/cafe and inn. The "Boom" did $60,000 plus on big weekends years ago, and gays, lesbians and others from around the planet enjoyed gathering in their own establishments and landmarks such as West Street beach in South Laguna, another international destination which attracts thousands every year and brings millions into our economy.

Yes, whoever you are, you are welcome in Laguna, but with the hotel bed tax down nearly 20% and sales tax revenues down 25%, this is no time to claim we are beyond certain groups gathering in their favorite places. The Laguna Visitor's Bureau, which takes part of the hotel tax, spends nothing on advertising in national gay and lesbian magazines such as Instinct, the Advocate and the Lesbian News, and yet gay travelers are known as good spenders.

Steven Udvar-Hazy, who bought the Coast Inn/Boom Boom Room, said he didn't close it. Yes, it was closed by men who had a lease with Hazy, but only after they ruined the cafe and bar business. The Boom Boom Room was the big, gay bar that could accommodate 200 or more people and was a magnet for visitors and locals. Its closure, along with Woody's (the Little Shrimp), are two major reasons Laguna is in the worst economic slump in its history. It's ironic that Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course and the luxury hotel at Treasure Island, both of which are struggling financially, don't have some money to spend attracting visitors to West Street beach — within walking distance of both properties. If what the mayor says is true, what are these two hotels afraid of?

"They kicked the gays out of town," a visitor told me this week. Not quite, but they built Main Beach Park, many believe, to shut down and close two big gay bars — but then there was the Boom and our beautiful gay/lesbian beach, West Street — and maybe a smart businessperson will realize a new Boom could make a lot of money for the owners and the city.

ROGER CARTER lives in Laguna Beach.

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