Russian River's R3 resort put up for sale

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday June 27, 2024
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The R3 Hotel in Guerneville, known for its pool parties, is on the market for $4.564 million. Photo: From Facebook
The R3 Hotel in Guerneville, known for its pool parties, is on the market for $4.564 million. Photo: From Facebook

One of the last remaining LGBTQ-focused resorts in Guerneville is being put up for sale. The listing for the R3 Hotel comes just as the busy summer tourist season in the Russian River area kicks into high gear, with crowds expected for the long, four-day Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The property went up for sale June 27 with an asking price of $4.564 million. The proceeds will be split among an investment group that numbers 17 people and will also benefit the LGBTQ nonprofits Face to Face based in Santa Rosa and the Desert AIDS Project of Palm Springs.

"Obviously, the new owners are entitled to make their own changes, but we would like to see it continue to be the gay and lesbian business in Guerneville," said Glenn Dixon, 72, a gay man who is the chief financial officer for the resort.

Located at 16390 Fourth Street at Mill Street in downtown Guerneville about 90 minutes north of San Francisco, the R3 resort includes 23 guest rooms, a bar and restaurant, pool, and an event space. Dixon told the Bay Area Reporter that it is the only gay-owned full-service resort with such facilities under one roof in the U.S.

"It is important for me to leave that legacy behind for the future generations," said Dixon. "I want to see it continue in some iteration of what it is today."

Asked if that meant he and the resorts' ownership group want to see it remain an LGBTQ resort after it is sold, Dixon told the B.A.R. that is the goal. As for the prospects of selling the property this summer, with high interest rates hampering the property market over the last year, he was less certain.

"I wish I had a crystal ball," said Dixon. "The difference here is we are looking for the right person and the right price. We don't have to sell."

Dixon had been friends with the previous owner, Ray Allen, for four decades and was named trustee of his personal estate, which included his stake in the R3. (The moniker is derived from it formerly being called the Russian River Resort.)

Allen passed away in March 2020 right as the COVID pandemic began, and his partner of more than 25 years, Paul McBride, died on December 30 that year According to Dixon, the couple had been in talks to sell the resort in 2019, but when a flood damaged the property that February, the prospective buyers terminated the deal.

Between 1992 and 2005 Allen had owned the resort when it was known as the Triple R. He bought it back in 2011 and renamed it the R3.

As the B.A.R. reported that September, the resort had been closed since 2010 when Sterling Savings Bank of Spokane, Washington, foreclosed on former owner Ray Shahani and padlocked the big front gate. After the foreclosure it was listed by Keegan and Coppin in Santa Rosa for $1.25 million.

After buying it back, Allen rehired Jeff Bridges as resort manager, having brought him on when he first owned the property. Bridges, a gay man, continues to be employed at the resort as its manager.

He told the B.A.R. the pending sale is "bittersweet" and he has "a lot of emotions about this." Nonetheless, he is hopeful that he and the others involved will find the right caretakers to take on the resort and preserve its legacy.

"All I can hope is that any future buyer of the place will keep the character of the hotel and realize the mainstay that this business has been for the West County, Sonoma County and Guerneville for over 40 years," said Bridges.

The property has been gay-owned and -operated for the past 40 years. Allen had recruited a number of his gay friends to take ownership stakes as part of the investment group he assembled to reacquire the property. He also stipulated the two nonprofits be beneficiaries of his estate, as Allen and McBride split their time between Guerneville and Palm Springs where they had a home.

Originally a motor lodge

According to the listing materials, the resort was originally built as a drive-in motor lodge and retains its U-shaped configuration with a central bar and pool surrounded by walkways, decking, mature landscaping, and a koi pond. It first opened in the 1940s and was known as Hetzel's Motor Court until being renamed as the Russian River Resort in the 1980s and becoming a gay-owned destination, according to real estate agent Steven "Stu" Gerry of Compass in San Francisco.

"I think interest will be surprising, and we have been working on this a good number of months already," Gerry told the B.A.R.

He is handling the current sale along with veteran Russian River Realtor Bob Young, who previously had handled the sale of the resort as well as the sale five years ago of Fife's. A former gay-focused resort in Guerneville that was rebranded as Dawn Ranch, it is now marketed as family-friendly with several pet-friendly cabins among its mix of 86 different types of accommodations.

"There's simply no destination on the Russian River quite like the R3," stated Young. "It's been a pillar of our community for years, hosting cherished events like Lazy Bear Week, Women's Weekend, Russian River Pride, plus their own entertainment. The R3 is irreplaceable."

Young splits his time between Northern California and Cape Cod in Massachusetts. He owns the Seal Pub and Cafe in Harwich, 35 miles to the south of the East Coast LGBTQ vacation destination of Provincetown.

As for the sale of the R3 Hotel, Young noted in an email to the B.A.R., "We're hopeful that the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders and allies will step forward and ensure this safe space continues to thrive."

Speaking by phone Wednesday, Dixon told the B.A.R. the resort is expecting this summer to be a "good season." It has four pool parties lined up over the Fourth of July weekend plus a scripted Disney Villains-themed drag show on three of those days, and is gearing up for Lazy Bear Week at the end of July.

"We are busy, busy, busy," said Dixon, who in the late 1980s owned the Highland Dell Inn in Monte Rio.

The R3 had a successful Women's Weekend in May, noted Dixon, which attracts lesbians and other queer women. Looking to the future and the resort's next owners, he told the B.A.R. he expects changes will be made to the property but would like to see it remain a destination for LGBTQ tourists coming to the forested area a short drive to the Pacific Coast.

"We hope to find someone who wants to continue it and improve it, "said Dixon, "possibly in ways we can't imagine for the future. I believe strongly in Ray's vision when he resurrected this place in 2011, which was to see it be a gay and lesbian destination."

Gerry posted a video tour of the resort on YouTube. Anyone interested in purchasing it can call him at 415-846-2849.

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