Malibu Inn sold at auction

The original incarnation of Malibu Inn was built in 1920, west of its current location across from Malibu Pier. It was recently sold at auction for $5.3 million. Photo by Devon Meyers / TMT

The inn was sold at a foreclosure auction for reportedly $5.3 million.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Inn has changed hands once again, though it is difficult to find anyone who will confirm details of the sale of the property or what the future holds for Malibu’s most famous watering hole.

Under the management of owners Mitchell Stewart and his wife, Nurit Petri, since 2002, the fate of Malibu Inn became tenuous following the death of Stewart last year. In December, The Malibu Times reported that the inn had gone into escrow on a $10.5 million sale brokered by local Realtor Tony Dorn, though the identity of the buyer remained anonymous.

On Monday, The Malibu Times received a report that the inn had been sold at a foreclosure auction for the minimum $5.3 million bid and that the new owner could possibly be real estate developer Richard Weintraub, part owner of the Malibu Lumberyard Mall and other local commercial properties, including the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.

Dorn declined to comment for this story, as did Weintraub and his publicist, Fiona Hutton.

The source of the report, a private securities investor who wished to remain anonymous, said he had looked at Malibu Inn as well and had decided to pass on the property as an investment opportunity.

“It didn’t look like it was worth a $5.3 million bid to me because of the upgrades that would need to be put into it,” the source said. “Who ever takes this on must spend a considerable amount to upgrade the septic system. My guess is at least a million dollars. So, it would only make sense for a property developer.”

The 7,184 square foot inn, built in 1950 at its current location, in 2002 had an assessed value of $2,866,863, as listed on the Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor Web site.

“My understanding is that the sale price did not include the liquor or entertainment licenses,” the source said. “I have no idea what the ultimate disposition of the property will be, but you can’t buy it, upgrade it and make any return by selling hamburgers.”

The source said the only reasonable investment strategy for the property would be to “flip” it or tear it down, upgrade the septic system and develop a retail commercial center.

Steve Dixon, in the city’s permitting office, confirmed that a septic system upgrade permit had been issued to Malibu Inn in 2004, but that no action was taken thereafter.

Andrew Sheldon, environmental health specialist for the city’s Environmental and Building Safety Division, said, “I’m not sure if their permit request was driven by the Regional Water Quality Control Board or just a desire to remodel, but all commercial establishments have to obtain these operating permits.”

Stewart and Petri had spent nearly $250,000 renovating the building after they bought it in 2002.

The Malibu Inn was originally built in 1920 farther west on Pacific Coast Highway (then known as the Roosevelt Highway) and hosted Hollywood stars of the era, such as Harold Lloyd and Gloria Swanson. A post card from the 1940s shows the original Malibu Inn across the street from the entrance to the Malibu Colony before it moved eastward to its present location across from the pier.

A generation ago, singer/songwriter Neil Young owned the place for a while, changing the name to Crazy Horse Saloon. The musical influence took and, for the past several years, Malibu Inn has featured some of Southern California’s hottest new rock, funk and jazz acts.

However, where the property will head commercially at this point is a mystery. Jeff Smith, who currently works at the inn, said the club is closed for the foreseeable future.

“We’re cleaning up right now,” Smith said. “We’re looking forward to reopening, whenever that is.”