Hotel Laguna’s refreshed restaurant, Larsen, is open for business

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Mayor Bob Whalen used a pair of giant scissors to cut a ribbon at Hotel Laguna’s front doors on Oct. 12 alongside Laguna Beach Co. CEO Mohammad Honarkar, Councilmember Peter Blake, Orange County Sup. Lisa Bartlett, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), and Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach). Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Hotel Laguna’s restaurant and lobby reopened with a fresh look on Tuesday after being shuttered for nearly four years.

Mayor Bob Whalen used a pair of giant scissors to cut a ribbon at the hotel’s front doors alongside Laguna Beach Co. CEO Mohammad Honarkar. The Laguna Beach City Council was joined by Orange County Sup. Lisa Bartlett, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), and Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach).

Business leaders, senior city staff, and fans of the historic landmark cheered after hearing remarks from Honarkar.

“For more than 90 years, Hotel Laguna has been a treasure at the center of the Laguna community. It is a privilege to update and renew this unique destination for new generations of residents and visitors,” Honarkar said Tuesday.

Bartenders were hard at work shaking cocktails and pouring white wine for thirsty visitors.  Larsen, the historic hotel’s primary restaurant led by Chef Craig Strong, served up plates of appetizers as a preview of his new menu. The restaurant will fully open for business on Oct. 13.

“I think the best thing is people are excited for the building to come back alive,” Strong said. “There are so few places you can have this kind of food, these kinds of drinks literally right on the sand.”

Chef Craig Strong greeted guests in the bar area of Hotel Laguna on Oct. 12. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

The weeks leading up to Terra Laguna Beach’s opening in time for the Festival of Arts provided Strong’s culinary team with a good training ground to launch Larsen, Strong said. Following the end of the summer festival season, Strong had about six weeks to get his new kitchen up and running.

Dinah Brazelton, a 30-year resident of Laguna Beach, said the hotel’s terrace view of waves crashing on Main Beach is what has brought her back over the years.

“I have traveled extensively and we come back to Laguna and walk to Main Beach and there is nothing like it,” Brazelton said. “I think [Honarkar] is going to bring a new renaissance to the city.”

Paula DeLong, a 10-year resident of North Laguna, said she is thrilled with the hotel’s modernized interior design and hopes the venture thrives. She enjoyed a glass of wine while perusing a hallway wall arranged with black and white photos and memorabilia from the hotel’s 90-year history.

“I think it’s Mo and his daughter [Hasty] who really pushed this through and got it to where it is today. I’m so grateful that it’s open,” DeLong said.

Reopening the first floor of Hotel Laguna has not come without controversy and mishaps. Under Honarkar’s management, the hotel has endured four stop-work orders for unpermitted construction. The City Council’s June 29 closed session meeting regarding Hotel Laguna invited a probe by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which found substantial evidence of a Brown Act violation.

The future of guest rooms at Hotel Laguna is contingent upon city and state officials’ approval of a historic rehabilitation plan that hasn’t been submitted to Laguna Beach yet.

Laguna Beach Co. CEO Mohammad Honarkar speaks to guests outside Hotel Laguna before a ribbon-cutting on Oct. 12. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
A guest enjoys a glass of wine on Hotel Laguna’s terrace on Oct. 12. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
Paula DeLong of Laguna Beach takes a moment to enjoy a historic photo collection at Hotel Laguna on Oct. 12. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
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