PCH Closure Slashes Business Revenues

Kristy’s Malibu has seen a 40 percent drop in business since a nine-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway was shut down in December. Six miles reopened on Tuesday but through traffic remains prohibited. 

Though it may be alleviating traffic throughout the city, the complete closure of Pacific Coast Highway in western Malibu is significantly hurting revenues for some businesses and the California State Parks Department. 

“When this road closure started two months ago, we were losing about 50 to 70 percent of our daily revenue,” said Ashley Edling, a manager for Neptune’s Net, a Malibu restaurant closest to the road block.

Neptune’s Net is one of a group of restaurants losing their main revenue streams as a result of the PCH closure, which has shut down a crucial commuting route for those going in and out of Ventura County. 

Located between Las Posas and Yerba Buena Road, the originally 9-mile closure began two months ago and is estimated by Caltrans to fully reopen by the end of February at the earliest. On Tuesday morning, the agency reopened a six-mile stretch on the side nearest to Oxnard. Traffic in and out of western Malibu, however, remains closed for three miles.

The state agency blames high surf and more storms for the latest roadblock, as “slopes below the highway washed away,” says Caltrans. 

The restaurants most affected by the closure say their commerce depends on the traffic flow through Malibu’s main thoroughfare. 

“There isn’t much we can do and we realize that,” Edling said. “Most of our staff lives up north [on the Ventura side of the closure] so we are all frustrated with that because we have to drive around [a lengthy detour] every day to make it to work. It’s a concern for staff because of the extra gas expense, the wear and tear on the cars, and the extra time. We are still open for business but everybody thinks we are closed. A lot of people call us because they don’t know how to get to us.”

For two months, commuters have been forced to take alternate canyon routes, such as Kanan Dume Road, if they need to get to Ventura from Malibu, and vice versa.

Greg Bashant, owner of Kristy’s Wood Oven & Wine Bar, said that despite a yearly 10 to 15 percent annual increase since opening in 2011, the restaurant has experienced a 40 to 50 percent decrease in revenues due to the closure. 

“The problem is all of us here that are west of Kanan know that much of the traffic that moves between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and up and down the coast, is tourism,” Kristy’s employee Rande Hartzog said Monday in a phone interview. 

Interestingly, western Malibu restaurants located in shopping centers are feeling less of a strain from the closure. 

Both Spruzzo’s and Ollie’s Duck & Dive report relatively small revenue decreases due to the closure, and they chalk it up to their locations and ability to depend more on local clientele and foot traffic.

“For the most part, [the closure] isn’t hurting us too bad at the moment,” said Matt Tempchin, general manager of Ollie’s Duck & Dive in the Point Dume Plaza. “We are a very localized bar so we have a lot of local customers who can walk here.”

“We are more of a local restaurant so it hasn’t affected us as much,” Spruzzo’s owner Ray Gowhari said.

Representatives from western Malibu restaurants The Sunset and Mangia could not be reached for comment.

Also feeling the negative repercussion from the closure is California State Parks. With a projected revenue loss of more than $300,000 based on the highway reopening at the end of February, California State Parks Supt. Craig Sap said earnings have been completely thwarted due to zero day use fees, camping and overnight fees, recreational programs and the shower program at Point Mugu State Park. 

“The closure makes it more difficult to hit our revenue target for 2015,” Sap said, adding that if the revenue target is achieved, half of any additional revenue is kept by its respective district and put into operations for the next fiscal year.

While acknowledging that the road closure contributes to revenue loss, Sap said the loss in recreational opportunities is more closely related to the December storm, as Point Mugu State Park had to be closed due to large amounts of debris. 

“We have spent the last three weeks doing repair, recovery and removing materials,” Sap said. “Now, we have reopened the backcountry, restrictions have been moved, and people can access the park through the Conejo Valley.”

On Tuesday, access to Point Mugu State Park’s trails and beaches was restored from Ventura.