West Malibu tries it dry

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Sunday afternoon, restaurateur Daniel Forge summed up Malibu’s weekend water shortage in terms of the dining scene. “It was two weddings and a funeral,” he said. “I had two weddings and everyone else had a funeral.”

But Saturday morning, the owner of Beau Rivage was understandably harried. A wedding party of 60 was due that afternoon and 125 were scheduled the following day.

“Difficult? It’s impossible, but we have to improvise, we must do gymnastics to accommodate these people. They’ve been planning the weddings for six months. We’ve filled containers with bottled water. We’re boiling the water and we’ll serve them on paper plates if we have to.”

Love conquers all. Guests dined on china. Ice made Thursday night would not need to be discarded. The wedding location stocks enough ice to chill most of western Malibu for three days.

Getting there was another story. Wearing a traditional white satin gown with train, the slender bride looked a little shell-shocked. “Well, it certainly wasn’t boring,” said Joanne Imai of Santa Monica. “In fact, it turned into a crashing challenge at 9 p.m. last night.” Imai and groom Andre Clavel phoned guests with a reminder to bring their invitations. Roadblocks at Topanga were reportedly the toughest in town.

Even with a pay stub, employee Alex Martinez was turned away at Topanga. He finally arrived at work via Malibu Canyon, only to find that 90 per cent of reservations had cancelled. Business was off 50 per cent Friday.

No amount of Pellegrino could keep Geoffrey’s, Paradise Cove Beach Caf or Spruzzo open. But county health officials gave a nod to the Gray Whale. Owner Tom Averna phoned each of his 60 reservations to confirm arrivals. Gray Whale hosted a baby shower for Averna’s wife that afternoon.

“Receipts show that people in Malibu do two things,” said City Councilman Tom Hasse at Sherman’s Place in Zuma Beach Plaza. “They eat out and they buy gas.”

According to the manager of Zuma Arco at Heathercliff, station pumps were flowing at about the same trickle as the water. With Zuma Beach parking lots empty, business was dead.

But not at Sherman’s Place. “It’s a great day, the pressure’s fine,” said owner Sherman Baylin. “Do you want to come over and do your laundry? I’m taking appointments.”

While human staffers and clientele were having a bad hair day, Saturday was shampoo as usual for the dogs. In a USC baseball cap, Hasse was helping out, spraying the suds from a small breed as owner Sherman Baylin praised his efforts for larger animals in town.

“Tom called me early this morning and said, ‘Horses drink 12 gallons of water a day, we’re going to set up troughs.'” The councilman had drinking troughs installed at the Equestrian Center and at the corner of Morningview and Guernsey in Malibu Park.

Baylin, who was inundated with pet rescue calls and horse inquiries, delivered water to owners without horse trailers all day. Despite a foot injury, Jane Forrester of Pet Cuddlers had assisted Baylin since 5 a.m. Late Saturday afternoon at the water distribution center in Trancas, about 20 residents were lined up for a five-gallon bottle. Smaller-sized containers were reserved for the elderly.

Pulling up alongside a row of portable toilets in the market parking lot, a McKesson Water Products representative delivered a Sparklett’s bill to Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Works employee Rod Heckman. The crew leader took the invoice for Friday and Saturday deliveries of 14 truckloads. Each truck carries 180 five-gallon bottles.

Heckman, on the job since 4 a.m. setting up road closures, urged each resident to return empty bottles to Civic Center. “We sure appreciate it,” he said. “It’ll save the county a lot of money.”