Hotel Laguna’s landlord intends to avoid any interruption in the historic property’s operations by having a new operator in place by Jan. 1, according to a statement released late Thursday.
Also Thursday, the attorney representing local real estate investors seeking control of the land lease of the iconic landmark hotel asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against them.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana last month by Andersen Hotels Inc. It alleges that hotel land owner E. W. Merritt Farms illegally entered into a 99-year lease deal for the hotel with Joe Hanauer, James “Walkie” Ray, Greg MacGillivray and Kimbark Group LLC and contravened the current leaseholder’s right of first refusal on a sale.
Among the 12 claims in the lawsuit is the allegation the local group described themselves as Hotel Laguna’s new “owners” and asks the court to bar the group from using the trademarked name.
Andersen Hotels president Georgia Andersen, whose family has operated the hotel since the ‘80s, recently informed the hotel’s 140 employees their jobs will be terminated effective Dec. 15 and the hotel close its doors by Dec. 31. Andersen Hotels’ lease expires.
In response to the Merritt family’s statement, Andersen said, “It doesn’t sound like they have signed a contract with a new operator yet…they are hopeful…interesting.” She declined to comment further. Last week, in a brief interview, Andersen said, “We want to stay.”
Her landlord appears to be taking a different tack. “We are making every effort to ensure continued operation to avoid disruption in the local community,” says the statement from the Merritt family, Central Valley melon growers in Porterville who also own multiple other ocean-front lots along Coast Highway south of Hotel Laguna. No other details were provided.
In response to Andersen Hotels’ lawsuit, attorney Janet E. Humphrey, representing Hanauer, MacGillivray, Ray and Kimbark, said, “Simply put, the lawsuit has no legal or factual basis,” said a statement.
“The facts are that there is no sale of the hotel and there has been no use of what Anderson Hotels claims is its trademark,” Humphrey’s statement said.
In another legal maneuver this week, attorney Proud Usahacharoenporn filed a motion on behalf of Andersen Hotels seeking the court’s approval of a notice of lis pendens, a public notice of a pending legal claim. Such a claim could cloud the title of the property.
This article was updated after the print edition deadline.