Owners Close Big Fish, Hire Hotel Managers


By Andrea Adelson | LB Indy

The House of Big Fish and Cold Beer Photo by Jody Tiongco.
The House of Big Fish and Ice  Cold Beer
Photo by Jody Tiongco.

The House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer restaurant in Laguna Beach will close next month, part of a reorganization by Casa Resorts Inc., which also operates other hospitality properties in Laguna Beach and Anaheim.

Closing the restaurant and hiring a hotel management company will allow the owners to narrow their focus on acquiring other boutique hotels and growing their company, said Chris Keller, a local resident, who co-owns Irvine-based Casa Resorts with Richard Ham, also of Irvine, and Takao Shinomiya, of Osaka, Japan. “Myself and two partners are like brothers and we all agreed,” he said.

Effective Oct. 1, the company will no longer self manage the historic 36-room La Casa del Camino hotel and Rooftop Lounge and K’ya Bistro Bar in Laguna, and Hotel Menage with its American Tavern Eatery and Drink and Palapa Bar & Lounge in Anaheim. The company hired Interstate Hotels & Resorts Inc.’s Rim Hospitality Division in Newport Beach to manage both properties.

“The problem with the restaurant business, is it’s so time-consuming,” said Keller, who nevertheless is making an exception for the Marine Room Tavern, a popular downtown watering hole in Laguna Beach. The plan is to retain the bar in the Casa Resorts portfolio; the lease runs for more than 20 years, Keller said. The company already relinquished managing the 18-room Laguna Beach Inn, which it did not own.

An alliance with a larger company allows opportunity for Casa Resorts’ employees and better benefits, Keller said. “It does free me up from the day to day grind,” he said. “We become the guys who buy the assets.”

Keller and his partners are joining the hunt for properties at a time when hotel sales in California are up by 25 percent compared to a year ago, according to a mid-year survey by Atlas Hospitality Group, an Irvine hotel broker. In Orange County, hotel sales rose 27%, but dollar volume was down 53%. The largest and most expensive sale was the 400‐room St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point that sold for $316.9 million, the report says. An improving economy and rising room rates is attracting investors, the report concludes.

Interstate, of Arlington, Va., manages 452 hotels in North America, Europe and Asia. The company has grown by buying up hotel-management companies and mostly oversees chain operations rather than boutique properties, said Alan X Reay, Atlas’ president. Interstate’s portfolio lists 43 hotel brands; its largest contracts are with Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn.

The 50 employees of House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer will be considered for jobs open at other Casa Resorts businesses, a statement says.


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