Upscale Gay Laguna Eatery To Close

Woody's At The BeachLAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA – Woody’s at the Beach – a popular upscale gay bar and bistro in South Laguna – will close next month and hand over its keys to Orange County-based Avila’s El Ranchito.
Woody’s managing partner Joel Herzer said in a statement posted on the restaurant’s Web site that he has sold the seaside property to the Mexican food chain. The restaurant will be Avila’s seventh in Orange County.
“This was a difficult decision to make,” Herzer said in the Wednesday memo. “I would like to express our sincere thanks for all the support and patronage we’ve had from the community.”
The Laguna Beach restaurant had earned a reputation as one of the city’s most trendy eateries. The 2007 Zagat Survey for Orange County called the gay establishment “a laid-back Laguna local tradition” that served dependable California fare and the best martinis in town.
On Thursday, Herzer said he is not closing Woody’s because of a downturn in business. Instead, he decided to sell the 7,500-square-foot property so he can focus on two other restaurants he operates in Palm Springs.
“It’s more of a quality-of-life issue for me,” he said.
Herzer said he put out feelers last year that the coastal property was for sale. However, the only serious takers were the Avilas, he said.
He said he’s happy to hand the parcel over to a family-run chain.
Herzer, who has been active over the years in promoting Laguna Beach as a gay destination, could not provide an exact date for the restaurant’s closure. He expects the property to change hands in February.
The closing comes on the heels of troubles at another gay landmark in Laguna Beach. Last year, news of the impending demise of the Boom Boom Room triggered a battle to keep that gay bar open. In the summer, the bar got a break from its landlord, negotiating a lease extension through September 2007. The bar is inside the 24-room Coast Inn.
Woody's At The BeachIn May 1995, Laguna Beach’s oldest gay dinner club, Little Shrimp, closed its doors after 31 years.
When longtime Woody’s and Boom Boom Room patron Fred Karger heard about the restaurant’s closure, he said he contacted the new owners immediately. Karger, a 10-year Laguna resident, founded the Save the Boom organization last year.
“My first concern was would it (Avila’s) be a gay establishment,” Karger said.
He said a member of the Avila family told him the Mexican eatery will cater to the local community. The Avilas could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In his memo, Herzer said he will “leave a part of his life behind” when he shuts down Woody’s next month. “Thank you again for the privilege of becoming part of your lives.”
El Ranchito opened its first restaurant in Huntington Park in 1966. Six of its eight restaurants are in Orange County.
from The Orange County Register

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