Nearly 100-year-old pier comes alive

Upscale dining will be offered again in a newly refurbished Alice’s Restaurant, as well as casual fare in a separate caf. Old favorite activities such as sports fishing and water sports will keep the old pier hopping.

By Tracy Marcynzysn/Special to The Malibu Times

Like the ocean it straddles, the Malibu Pier has had its highs and lows since its inception in the early 1900s.

A deserted landmark in Malibu since it was damaged by El Nino Storms 10 years ago, the Malibu Pier is now a hubbub of activity as its new concessionaire, Malibu Pier Partners, plans for its future.

Headed by Malibu’s own Jefferson Wagner, surfer and owner of Zuma Jay surf shop and equipment rental business for 28 years, Malibu Pier Partners landed the 20-year contract to manage and operate the pier based on a lengthy proposal submitted to California State Parks. Wagner’s plans, which include casual and upscale dining, sports fishing, bait and tackle shop and a surf museum, he said, come “from the heart.”

Malibu Pier Partners will develop and operate Alice’s Restaurant, a casual, drop-in dining cafe in the style of a late 1940s seafood house, featuring a menu by renowned chef Bradley Ogden, a partner of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, which owns and operates eight successful quality restaurants in Northern and Southern California. The new Alice’s Restaurant will be fashioned after the chain’s Yankee Pier eatery in Northern California, and will include an ocean-view, raw oyster bar, inside and outside dining, fresh fish from both coasts, local produce, house desserts and a selection of American wines and more than 20 varieties of beer.


Casual dining will be offered at the Surf View Caf, which will be located on the ocean end of the pier. The caf will offer sandwiches from $6 to $9, and other snack bar-type favorites such as corn dogs, burgers and sausage rolls, soft serve ice cream and drinks. The two-story cafe will feature high-top tables and 1947 decor, as well as 360-degree views.

A complete bait and tackle shop run by Phil Campanella, and twice-daily sport fishing tours run by Bertram McCann’s Filmboats Inc., are also a part of the plan. Equipment rentals, including boogie boards, surf boards, kayaks, windsurfers, beach chairs, umbrellas and sand wheelchairs will be available through Zuma Jay Malibu Beach retail shop and the Surfrider Gallery and Museum.

John Mazza, owner of Malibu Surfing Museum, a nonprofit organization, will run the museum, which will feature interpretive exhibits and a look at surfing history.

With an estimated $2 million to get the pier operational, Wagner and his partners figure they will have to wait to see a profit until “after year six or seven,” according to Wagner, a fact he feels may account for his group being the only one to submit a proposal.

“A number were active players until the very last week [before the proposal deadline],” Wagner said. “I think they found they were unable to recoup investments in a timely manner.”

Limited parking and regulations on wastewater are hurdles Malibu Pier Partners plan to overcome. Wagner said he plans to look into a shuttle service that Pepperdine University may provide from the Civic Center area, thus enabling more people to access the pier than the current parking situation provides. Malibu Pier Partners also plans to invest in upgrading the pier’s sewage treatment facility.

According to Wagner’s girlfriend, Candace Brown, money is not Wagner’s main motivation in wanting to operate the pier. Instead, as reflected in his plans, Wagner is driven by his love for the community and the lifestyle Malibu represents.

Several opportunities for community involvement in the pier exist such as high school children receiving community service credits for giving tours and running the kiosk and volunteer docents, who currently run the Adamson House, will be asked to take part by helping to design a self-guided walking tour of the pier.

Malibu Pier Partners hope to be ready for operation in early 2004. Wagner estimates the operation will employ about 100 people.

As the Dennis J. Amaroso Construction Co. completes the restoration of the pier’s shell, which includes repairing a wall crushed by a crane falling on it during the former contractors’ work on the pier, Malibu Pier Partners will work on the interiors of the buildings. When completed, the pier will look like it did in the ’40s and ’50s.

Constructed in the early 1900s, the 780-foot pier was a shipping wharf, a loading dock, a movie set and a lookout post for the Coast Guard during World War II before it was nearly lost to a huge storm. Rebuilt in 1942 by William Huber, a businessman, the pier was again destroyed in 1983, was restored again and named a historic point of interest, only to be hit by El Nino storms 10 years later and closed again, this time for almost 10 years.

Today, as the nearly century-old Malibu Pier readies for its reopening, it stands as proof that what once was lost may still rise again.

State Parks’ Hayden Sohm, who is the acting superintendent for the Angeles District, noted that the state wanted the concessionaire to be a local resident who really cares about the community.

“From my perspective, it [the proposal] reflects more than strictly an entrepreneurial basis, and will have an opportunity for the community to get involved,” Sohm said.

Literally growing up on the pier, Wagner “knows every nook and cranny of it,” Brown said. “It’s always been his dream to run it.”

Wagner envisions developing the pier into a fun place that both serves and educates the community and its visitors.

“I hope it will have the flavor that it did when I was growing up-low key and fun,” said Wagner. “I used to hang out at the pier, and I’ve jumped off of it several times. It really has a place in my heart.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

Related Articles





Latest Articles


%d bloggers like this: