On January 16, 1953, as new ownership took control, the hotel ended its discrimination policies. A grand "reopening" was held with invited guests that included Oakland-born comedian Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, boxing champion Joe Louis and acclaimed singer Lena Horne. The hotel attracted many high profile black visitors to Oakland. At that time, it was the only full-service hotel that welcomed black people in the East Bay.
The Historic California Hotel became the principle and highest quality social center for East Bay Blacks in the 1950s and 1960s. Black entertainers met each other there, found a favorite barber right in the Hotel (Alfred Keyes 1959-1972), used its Ray & Ray's Flowers, and after shows would unwind in its Club Zanzibar and its all-night restaurant which were located in commercial spaces fronting on San Pablo. The original banquet room, later called the Gold Room and beginning in 1963 the Side Door, was the balconied space behind the main lobby. The California Hotel was also known for its Big Mambo and Afro Cuban scene. Pete Escovedo got his start playing at the California Hotel. Patrons came for Pete Escovido's Sunday mamba dances, and for a host of Black musicians, especially blues and gospel performers. Both jazz and Latin music lovers flocked to see performers like Carlos Federico, Benny Velarde, and Cal Tjader. A bevy of sports and political figures came to listen, inspire, vibe, eat and be seen, for the California Hotel was the Black social center.