dear friends — thought that you would be interested in the story below from yesterday’s Orange County Register by Restaurant Writer, Nancy Luna. I just heard Wednesday that Woody’s at the Beach was sold to the El Ranchito family-owned chain of restaurants . The change-over is supposed to happen next month.

I had a long conversation with Michael Avila who will be managing and operating their newest store in Laguna Beach for his family. He was very upbeat and told me that the family’s philosophy is to “cater to the community.” am hoping to meet with him next week, and have offered to do whatever possible to help make a smooth transition of this historically gay restaurant and bar into his vision of a fun and more moderately priced Mexican restaurant and bar. have told Michael about the famous Marix, the Tex-Mex restaurant in West Hollywood. Marix is a 20-year success story that traditionally has a 1 to 2-hour wait for dinner. The wait time is usually occupied by customers consuming pitchers of their delicious margaritas. It is an extremely popular and fun place to go. it could help serve as a model for the new Laguna El Ranchito.

be sure and come to Woody’s often until the changeover. Joel Herzer and his partners have done an outstanding job of serving wonderful food and drink to the community for 10 years. it has been such a warm and friendly place and a real asset to Laguna Beach. and the Boom Boom Room has lots going on this winter. it has been busy for this time of year and always fun. Laguna is Back, Come Back to Laguna!

will keep you posted on this and all else as we are working to “SAVE the BOOM!!! — Forever!!!

here’s the story…

Thursday, January 4, 2007
Woody’s in Laguna to close
Owners of the gay seaside bistro sell to Avila’s El Ranchito.
The Orange County Register

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 Website 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.

In 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,” said Karger.
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.

Contact the writer: or 714-796-6756