Civil Disputes at Hotel Laguna and 14 West Prompt Forced Closure by City 

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A physical altercation at Hotel Laguna yesterday between separate security guard groups led to one arrest by Laguna Beach police. Photo/Clara Beard

The City of Laguna Beach ordered Hotel Laguna and 14 West to close Tuesday evening after three separate altercations between two different armed security guard teams broke out on the hotels’ premises. The conflicts were related to an ongoing civil dispute over the control of operations and management at the hotel properties between well-known Laguna Beach real estate investor Mohammad Honarkar and a group of investors who claim to have bailed out Honarkar from foreclosure two years ago.

As part of the bailout, Honarkar contributed all of his assets to a group of investors represented by Cohen Law Group, which includes properties such as Hotel Laguna, the Art-A-Fair building, Cliff Village LLC, Terra Laguna Beach, several vacation homes and the 14West hotel. 

However, on Tuesday morning, the Laguna Beach Police Department responded to claims of trespassing and physical altercations between two armed security guard teams at 14 West (formally the Holiday Inn). The police responded to another disturbance at Hotel Laguna in the afternoon and again later at 14 West that evening. 

Laguna Beach City Manager Shohreh Dupuis issued the nuisance abatement order late Tuesday evening, citing unsafe conditions for the public and Laguna Beach police. 

“Although this is a civil matter, the presence of armed security and these types of altercations require City intervention for the protection of the public and all concerned,” Dupuis said. “We started working with the attorneys on both sides to come up with a resolution in the early afternoon and had urged the attorneys to have their clients voluntarily close the buildings while claims and lawsuits are resolved. Both parties had agreed by 6 p.m. to unarm their security guards at both locations but did not agree to close the buildings.” 

During the morning incident at 14 West, Police responded to armed security guards causing a disturbance. The parties were separated and told officers they would remain civil. However, a few hours later, police responded to a 20-person physical altercation between the same parties and others in the lobby of Hotel Laguna, where police arrested a security guard who hit another guard from the opposite group, according to authorities.

Laguna Beach police make an arrest after a fight broke out at Hotel Laguna on Tuesday. Photo/Clara Beard

That evening, police officers were called in again twice to 14 West to respond to more disturbances from the two parties. Police discovered armed guards still present at that location and Hotel Laguna, according to a release from the City.

“This is a civil issue that has resulted in both parties hiring armed security and attempting to force the other from the businesses,” said Police Chief Jeff Calvert. “Both sides have been warned, but unfortunately, neither side will relent and take the appropriate actions through the civil judicial process. Immediate closure of the businesses will allow a cooling off period for both parties and protect the public from inadvertently being caught up in the middle of a civil issue that has the potential to become more violent.”

Both buildings are now closed to the public, and all staff and occupants were asked to leave the premises. The properties will remain closed until public health and safety threats are over.

The altercation between security guards at Hotel Laguna prompted the locks to be changed after police cleared the scene. Photo/Clara Beard

Two months ago, at least some of Honarker’s Laguna Beach Company tenants, which includes Hotel Laguna, were sent letters indicating a change in ownership and property management.

One such letter, sent to tenants of the Hive and obtained by the Independent, stated, “Effective as of the date of this letter, Mohammed Honarkar is no longer acting on behalf of the aforementioned company,” the March 29 letter said. “You should no longer have contact with him or his office, including but not limited to paying rent to Mr. Honarkar.”

Despite those letters indicating a change in ownership, a Laguna Beach Company representative told the Independent that Mo Honarkar and Laguna Beach Company were “fully retaining their ownership positions of Hotel Laguna and other local properties.” 

“Day-to-day food and beverage management of Hotel Laguna has been temporarily transferred while a business dispute is resolved,” a Laguna Beach Company representative said in a March email to the Independent. “In the meantime, Hotel Laguna and the company’s other properties are operating normally and remain open for business to serve the Laguna Beach community.”

According to the Cohen Law Group, the counsel behind the group of investors taking over Honarker’s properties, removing Honarker from the properties has been complicated.

“Since his removal as administrative manager, Honarkar has engaged in the sabotage of the business operations of the properties,” a statement from Cohen Law Group said. “And as of May 2, resorted to rash tactics of using armed guards to attempt to hastily take over some of the properties that are under the control of his business partners.”

The Cohen Law Group stated the police were called to the properties several times, which led to Honarkar making written promises to the City he would remove his armed security. 

“Honarkar breached his commitment to the City only hours after making it by continuing to have armed security at the properties, which resulted in, and provided an excuse for, the City to shut down these properties, lockout the owners who operate the properties, hotel guests, and patrons of Hotel Laguna,” the Cohen Law Group’s release stated. “It is a strange time when property owners are locked out of their own property while the City refuses to eject trespassers with guns.”

However, Isaac Zfaty, counsel to Honarkar and the Laguna Beach Company, told the Independent in a statement Wednesday that Honarkar continues to maintain ownership in Hotel Laguna, 14 West and various other local properties.

“Mr. Honarkar is in a business dispute with some of his affiliates,” Zfaty’s statement said. “Unfortunately, several individuals forcibly trespassed onto two of the company’s properties and attempted to change their locks without legal authorization. In the process, a member of the group assaulted members of Mr. Honarkar’s staff and security team and was subsequently arrested. We appreciate the prompt response by the Laguna Beach Police Department to arrest this assailant and protect public safety. We condemn this outrageous and unlawful conduct and hope to resume normal operations as soon as possible at both establishments.”

This is a developing story. 

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I was at the Hotel Laguna yesterday on the terrace. Beautiful day darkened by the sad truth of operators refusing to make payment on $200,000,000 loans secured by properties in town. The operators in arrears hiring armed guards, damaging property, this is just not what Laguna Beach needs or wants. The sooner the dead beat tenant leaves the better for everyone. We want to see Hotel Laguna back and the interlopers gone.

  2. The degenerate that was arrested for assault is Banayotis Haddad from Continuum Analytics in Newport Beach. He’s no security guard, he’s a representative of the company claiming to be the new owners. They have a connection to a “Bank” in Newport that was investigated by the Federal Reserve for questionable practices. That other gentleman mentioned in the last Independent article about this mess from a few weeks ago, Kluchin, is Haddad’s coworker. The Indy should do some investigative reporting. Not surprised they are acting in such a violent manner towards Honarker. The word racketeering comes to mind when further researching this continuum group.

    https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/pressreleases/enforcement20220118a.htm

  3. Well done Honaker family! Not only have you had free reign to tie up the cities resources to expand your empire, but now you hired a team of goons to strongarm your way onto a property that you no longer operate. I cant wait to see the Museum Hotel monsterosity. By the way, hows the Royal Hawaiian these days?

  4. Agreed Richard Harden. I gave the Indy some heads up on Haddad this morning. He is a public nuisance and the Laguna Beach police shouldn’t have let him out on bail right after the arrest.

    I am hopeful that the independent will definitely take more time to investigate and find out who this other company Aryabhata Group out of Newport Beach is. Residents diserve the truth and not the gossip.

  5. Wouldn’t these investors have court orders showing a default and rights to take over the property? No press is covering that. If they don’t, which seems to be the case, their claims don’t have a leg to stand on. Explains why Mo was not removed from the property, it’s obviously still his. Richard’s comment provided more information and context than the article above. If this group has possession rights over these hotels, they would have legal documentation and paper trails. Probably why Mo is pissed, I would be too if someone pulled a mob like takeover like that, and you better believe I would have my own security. This Haddad dude that was arrested is a part of Continuum, the same company claiming to be the rightful owners? What a joke. That hoodie was all I needed to see to recognize these people are trash compared to the family that’s been running it. Laguna likes to sensationalize everything, and this was made to be about guns, not a property owner defending his property and businesses. People just love to hate and never want to actually look at the facts. Do you all really want to have hoodie dude running those businesses? This city is doomed. People are so blinded by their dislike of capitalism and Mo, they don’t realize the grass is for sure not greener on the side, and in fact, probably sprayed to the max with roundup and glyphosate. Dare I say, Save Mo!

  6. So Mo is the victim of not paying his creditors, and hiring a private goon team to physically strongarm his way back on a property that he never owned and no longer operates? Interesting take. Dare I say, save Laguna from Mo!

  7. As of June 2021 when Mo excepted the 100m+ bailout he became an at will manager of the properties. His remaining ownership in only a tiny fraction. Come on every time diluting ownership. This wonderful investment company bailed him out, you can only guess why he was exited. The investment company provided our CM and Phil all documentation proving ownership. Mo was required to provide his documentation. He could not provide the documentation, he could not go to court. So instead he chose to storm these two properties with 12 armed guards break windows, security system, key making system and much more. It was violent.
    on 4/24 our CM and Phil were given documentation proving ownership. Yet they stayed quite and allow our police, residents, hotel staff and guests including small children.

  8. Jim, your link to the youtube is unavailable. Everyone knows when you default on A Hard Money Loan you risk losing the property.

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