Baywood Park’s famed Merrimaker dive bar will soon have a new owner

Developer and Los Osos resident Bill Lee is purchasing the famed Baywood Park ‘dive bar’ the Merrimaker Tavern in a deal set to close at the end of September.

Asked what plans he has for the Merrimaker, Lee, a retired southern California commercial real estate company owner, says the place is in need of repair and renovation, but he wants to “make it a wonderful neighborhood bar.”

What that means for the character of the dive bar isn’t clear.

Obviously, Lee will strive to keep that friendly atmosphere the place is famous for. Look up the definition of a “dive bar” on Wikipedia and you will see a photo of the Merrimaker.

Lee’s Orange County firm Lee & Associates was started in 1979 offering a broad array of real estate services including commercial real estate brokerage, property management, valuation, asset management and finance. The company claims to be the largest of its kind in North America.

Lee has both supporters who cite his generosity and critics who complain he tries to throw his weight around. But all acknowledge he has changed the face of sleepy Baywood, bringing visitors to the area, donating a community garden and offering regular free concerts along the bay that locals flock to.

Landscaping dispute resolved

Meanwhile, Lee and a group of Baywood neighbors are ending a nearly three-year dispute over landscaping Lee carried out along Baywood’s First Street.

A compromise was reached after the county Planning Commission required Lee to remove some shrubbery in the county right-of-way. Under an agreement, he will work later this year to replant trees and shrubs as well as put in a boardwalk to connect to the bay.

The dispute started after Lee was accused of doing the landscaping without a permit, launching several years of heated community meetings and legislative hearings.

Lee owns much of the block in this part of town including the upscale Blue Heron restaurant, the Back Bay Inn cafe and the Back Bay Inn hotel, which he wants expand.

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