The renovation changed the Hawaiian restaurant that had become iconic for its campy decor, from its aquariums full of colorful fish, Polynesian scenes adorning the walls and tiki lamps to its looming red-eyed tiki statue that greeted patrons at the front door.
Plasma TV screens, sleek booths, granite surfaces and contemporary tables took over during the two-year renovation.
"It wasn't nearly the same," said Michael Rodriguez, a Laguna Beach native. "It closed as soon as the Cabangs sold it."
Rodriguez, 48, was a Royal Hawaiian regular from the 1980s until about 2004. He went back last summer.
"I think it lost its soul," he said.
Billy Sherman, 47, said he was disappointed to hear about the closure, but said he wasn't surprised.
"It had changed from the way it used to be," he said. "It lost the whole classic vibe it was and turned into something more generic."