September 22, 2021

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Just Do Travel

Hotel Laguna could reopen restaurant and lobby soon

4 min read

Laguna Beach residents and visitors may soon be able to return to one of the city’s iconic coastal landmarks, as city officials reaffirmed their intent to have the lobby and restaurant at the Hotel Laguna reopen in short order.

Marc Wiener, the city’s community development director, indicated during a report to the Laguna Beach City Council that he hoped that the restaurant could reopen to the public by the end of August.

“Hotel Laguna is a jewel of Laguna Beach, and we are incredibly excited to be reopening its doors to the community as an updated and refreshed new gathering place,” Hasty Honarkar, vice president of the Laguna Beach Co., said in a statement on Saturday. “We have revitalized the entire ground floor of the hotel, aiming to restore the class and style of the original 1930 building while giving it a modern touch.

“We’ve transformed the hotel lobby to be a stylish and welcoming ‘living room’ for neighbors and community members, and, overlooking the Pacific will be a beautiful new restaurant led by celebrated local chef Craig Strong, which we are confident will become an instant favorite.”

Honarkar added that the community will be able to view the work of local artists, as well as photographs and memorabilia that will pay homage to the history of Hotel Laguna and the Laguna Beach community.

The Laguna Beach Co. acquired the Hotel Laguna in 2019.

The Laguna Beach Co. acquired the Hotel Laguna in 2019.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Laguna Beach Co. acquired the Hotel Laguna in 2019, but it has not been a road without hurdles to get to the verge of welcoming back the public. Along the way, there have been a total of four stop-work orders, including three within a relatively short period in the summer of 2020.

Upon inspection of the site, city officials decided to modify a stop-work order from May 5 with the goal of allowing the restaurant to serve the public after discovering that the work that had been done to the interior was near completion.

Wiener said that stop-work orders are issued by city staff, not the council, and he added that building permits are not required to go to the Planning Commission unless there is to be a change of use.

He also said that the city consulted with the California Coastal Commission, which found that the work that remained — including door hardware, hand railings and exit signage — did not constitute development.

A structural engineer was also brought in and reported that the building is structurally sound, Wiener said.

A temporary certificate of occupancy will have to be issued by the city. Honarkar added that a permit will also have to be issued by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

There is not an exact date in place yet for when the Hotel Laguna will have its reopening.

There is not an exact date in place yet for when the Hotel Laguna will have its reopening.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Honarkar said there is not an exact date in place yet for when the Hotel Laguna will have its reopening, but she expressed excitement at that date growing near. In addition to the work on the ground floor, she also elaborated on the plans remaining for the property.

“We are also currently collaborating with the city and the Coastal Commission on repair and maintenance of the outdoor deck area, access, landscaping, and the hotel’s beach club,” Honarkar said.

“We are eager to reopen Hotel Laguna, including its guest rooms and the beach club, and hope to create a thriving community asset that creates jobs and supports the city’s economy while serving residents and visitors alike.”

The project had recently fallen under scrutiny after it was revealed that plans to allow for work to continue at the Hotel Laguna were discussed in closed session on June 29, which preceded the stop-work order being partially lifted on July 15.

That prompted debate over whether the closed session was a violation of the Brown Act.

Councilman George Weiss was censured by the council for disclosing confidential information from that meeting.

Phil Kohn, the city attorney, remained steadfast in his view that discussing the item in closed session had been appropriate.

The Hotel Laguna is viewed from afar.

The Hotel Laguna is viewed from afar.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Stop-work orders are handled as administrative matters,” Kohn said.

“The City Council did not vote to direct staff to lift the stop-work order for Hotel Laguna. Instead, the City Council had acted to concur with the city staff’s stated intention to modify the stop-work order … to allow certain interior work to be performed to facilitate the reopening of the restaurant and lobby, but no work that was implicated by the coastal development permit or the pending appeal before the Coastal Commission.”

Laguna Beach city manager Shohreh Dupuis said Tuesday that the city was facing pending litigation, potentially from the Honarkar family over building permits or from other parties.

“I discussed that with the city attorney, and we also discussed the fact that either the Coastal Commission or a member of a community could also sue the city for allowing the work to continue,” Dupuis said in response to an inquiry about potential litigation from Councilman Peter Blake.

After extensive deliberation, the City Council by a 3-2 vote concurred once more with city staff’s plan for the reopening of the restaurant and lobby at Hotel Laguna. Council members Toni Iseman and Weiss dissented.

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