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Commission OKs Coast Inn plans

Historic display about the Boom Boom Room gay bar may be placed in hotel lobby or a wine bar, if one is opened at site.

May 21, 2010|By Cindy Frazier

Laguna Beach planning commissioners were pleased with the final details on the renovation of the old Coast Inn at their May 12 meeting — including the addition of 1920s-themed flag poles and awnings — but continued to press the developer on a public display depicting the hotel's long association with the gay community.

The location of such an interpretive center is still to be determined.

The hotel might have a retail space, or a restaurant/wine bar — or all three — at the former location of the Boom Café, a 1,200-square-foot storefront, according to architect Morris Skenderian.

"We hope to rent to a tenant," Skenderian said. "We would like to have a great hotel with a wine bar, but we don't want it to be a requirement."

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The site of the Boom Boom Room — the iconic bar where Rock Hudson and other gay mega-stars hobnobbed — will become a 13-space parking garage under plans approved unanimously by the commission.

Skenderian proposed that a historic exhibit about the Coast Inn and its importance in Laguna Beach be placed either in the hotel lobby or in the restaurant/bar area; that it be prepared by an approved historic consultant and "subject to the approval" of the property owner, former AIG executive Steven Udvar-Hazy. Udvar-Hazy has been pressured for several years to donate the property to the city as a gay community center.

Udvar-Hazy also owns Coast Liquor, across the street from the hotel, and plans to convert that location into a "liquor store, wine cafe and deli," Skenderian stated. "Hopefully, it will all work together."

Commissioners continued to press Skenderian to promise that the property's long history as a gay gathering place would be included in the historic exhibit, and some were concerned the site would be too "private."

"This building has been of tremendous importance to a community that had few public places to meet," said Chairwoman Anne Johnson. "There are couples in town who met there. A retail space is not a place to socialize and it would be very wrong to exclude that. The interpretive exhibit should be in a public area."

Skenderian reminded the commission that he also worked on the redevelopment of the historic Pottery Shack site, now known as the Old Pottery Place, which includes historic artifacts and displays in areas open to the public.

Commissioner Norm Grossman agreed with Johnson, but opined that placing the display in the hotel lobby would be public enough.

Skenderian agreed.

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