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A few months after the residents were gone, talk turned to Taps being next to go. Things came to a head in early September, after a problem with the aging kitchen equipment forced Taps' owner Eric LaFranchi to announce he was no longer able to serve hot food – and accusing Andrews of not cooperating. LaFranchi did not return several calls seeking comment this week.

By now, for Taps, it is presumably water under the bridge – in this case the bridge leading over the Petaluma River to their new front door at 54 E. Washington St., in the River Plaza Shopping Center.

That's just a few hundred feet from the historic hotel, located across the river at 106 Washington St., where Taps had rented bar space for four years.

Built in 1923, the five-story, 104-room structure was purchased by the Andrews in 2012 after the former owner lost it in foreclosure. At the time of the purchase there were four business tenants on the ground floor: a tattoo parlor, a nail salon, a record store and Taps.

Along with Taps, the record store is gone, although the other two businesses remain. Jessica Andrews said the family is working on opening a caf?in the open storefront on the corner.

Besides weddings, the classic ground-floor spaces – an austere, den-like "fireplace room" connects the ballroom and lobby – are now being used for conferences and other events.

"Our ballroom lends itself to being a traditional dance space," Jessica Andrews said.

Upstairs, she used an old-fashioned metal key to open one of the available rooms, which contained an antique bed and other furniture. The owners intend to preserve much of Hotel Petaluma's 1920s charm, she said.

Hempel said last year's exodus there underscored a major weakness in the local housing market.

"The biggest picture that was highlighted by losing the SRO (single resident occupancy) … was it highlighted the fact that we as a community have not addressed the lack of housing," Hempel said. "Not just affordable housing, but there is a huge housing demand in this community." She called for a "bigger conversation about housing, and how we as a community address this issue together."

(Contact Don Frances at argus@arguscourier.com)