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Remembering a Legacy of Gay Bars

Editor,

For decades, Laguna Beach had a large gay bar on Main Beach and later the Boom Boom Room at the Coast Inn.

Luckily a gay man owns our much smaller and only remaining gay bar, the Bounce, and has made recent changes with more improvements coming.

When “Pappy” Smith died in the early 1960s, his son Carl took over management of the Coast Inn.

Main Beach was home to the big “gay” bar, Dantes, which would order 500 cases of Budweiser alone for holiday weekends. The bar closed when Main Beach Park was constructed.

The crowds went to the Little Shrimp and West Street Beach, south of Camel’s Point in South Laguna. Legend has it that Michael Michaels, the wonderful owner of the Little Shrimp, asked Carl Smith and his wife to dinner and told them they should turn the South Seas bar at the Coast Inn into a gay bar because unlike the Shrimp, it was big enough to accommodate the gays. Carl hired a gentleman named Reggie to be the main bartender for the South Seas bar. He had been a press agent for Judy Garland and cleverly spread the word that the South Seas was turning gay on a summer, holiday weekend.

Smith sold the Coast Inn to Syd. Syd sold it to John. John sold it to two gay men and over the years people came from around the world to go to West Street Beach and the Boom Boom Room. Over holiday weekends it probably took in more cash than any restaurant, dance floor and two bars in Laguna. The third owner, John, after his first holiday weekend, was flabbergasted at the cash take. So for decades, even when Laguna had half the population it has now, thousands from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community traveled to Laguna and spent millions and got a tan at the beach and a beer at our destination gay bar and stayed overnight at hotels all over town.

Roger Carter, Laguna Beach

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