Group Asks Billionaire To Spare 1920s Inn

Posted on: February 25th, 2008 by Margaret Foster

Coast Inn, Laguna BeachSupporters of the oldest gay bar in the country—the oceanfront "Boom Boom Room," which opened in Laguna Beach, Calif., in the 1940s—have hope this month that the building's new owner might want to offload the controversial property rather than razing it for a new hotel.

Steven Udvar-Hazy, who bought the building in 2005 for $12.9 million, took it off the market on Feb. 1. But the "for sale" signs are still posted, and two potential sellers viewed it last week, according to Fred Karger, who is leading a grassroots effort to save the club.

"Some people are discouraged, but a lot of people have new hope that good will will prevail, that he will come around and do the right thing," says Karger, who last month launched "Operation Postcard," a asking Hazy to lower his price of $20 million or donate the building to the city. "I'm not suggesting he'd take a loss, but I'm hoping he'll be more reasonable in light of the history of this bar."

Hazy bought the 24-room inn and two nearby properties, planning to bulldoze them and build an 11-room boutique hotel on the site. In 2006, he extended the Boom Boom Room's lease for one year, but it finally closed last September.

"This is a commercial property and not a trophy for one group," Hazy told the Laguna Beach Independent.

Opened as the Coast Inn in the 1920s, the bar was a military hangout and later, in the 1970s, a gay bar. Now known as "the Boom," the building is now the city's second-oldest hotel.

"It needs work. The previous owners did not main it at all," Karger says. "It could be a very beautiful place to restore."

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