New businesses opening in several Malibu spots


New restaurants open in Malibu, and bar hoppers will be able to enjoy drinks at Bui Sushi’s new lounge, while MBSC patrons can ship their mail from its new location near the pier.

By Olivia Damavandi / Assistant Editor

With summer soon to be in full swing, many Malibu businesses are preparing for what they hope will be a busy season. And though the economic recession has wreaked havoc on much of the real estate market, some new businesses are slated to open in the upcoming months.

Many spots at Malibu Village, formerly known as Cross Creek Plaza, have remained largely vacant since the change in ownership in 2007. But the Malibu Planning Commission recently approved permits for the operation of a Mixt Greens restaurant, which specializes in organic salads. Mixt Greens will replace a portion of the space formerly occupied by Mexican food restaurant Casa Escobar, Malibu Village co-owner Pouya Abdi confirmed Tuesday. An opening date has not yet been confirmed. Still empty though, are the spaces that housed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop, Prichett-Rapf realty, Wells Fargo Bank and the soon to be vacant Super Care Drugs space.

A little further north at Malibu Colony Plaza, which has also lost a number of local tenants due to rising rent costs, Bui Sushi is currently expanding to add a bar setting. The expansion will remain part of the existing restaurant and will be called “Bui Lounge,” owner Nate Heyder said Tuesday in a phone interview. The lounge, which will replace the space formerly occupied by retail store Phillipe Derey, is expected to open the first week of July.

The number of vacancies at both Malibu Village and Malibu Colony Plaza, the two major shopping centers on the southwest end of Malibu, have concerned some Realtors and residents who have said that the absence of tenants could detrimentally impact the city’s sales tax revenue-a major source of its income.

In Malibu Colony Plaza, for example, the space that once housed Granita, Wolfgang Puck’s and Barbara Lazaroff’s eclectic under-the-sea-themed restaurant that opened in 1991 and closed in 2005, has since remained vacant. Malibu Colony Plaza property manager Cindy Mcafee could not be reached for comment.

But City Manager Jim Thorsen on Tuesday said the tenant deficits have not greatly impacted the city’s sales tax income.

“We’re keeping steady with sales tax as it is,” Thorsen said. “We know that there are a few restaurants that are opening up,” he said, referring to the newly opened Habana cafe at the Malibu Lumber Yard, and the Japanese restaurant Nobu and Wolfgang Puck eatery that plan to open at the former PierView and Windsail restaurant sites next summer.

“Generally, overall, we do see sales tax coming and going but it’s been remaining pretty steadily throughout a couple of years so hasn’t affected us that much,” Thorsen said. “The smaller stores don’t have that large of an impact on the city.”

As is typical in most commercial leases, tenants are on triple net leases, which means when the center is sold the county reappraises it at the new sale price. That additional cost from the higher property taxes plus any maintenance costs are passed through to the tenants.

Soaring rents and maintenance fees have also caused an exodus of longtime local businesses from many shopping centers in northeastern Malibu, where property owners are charging as much as $15 per square foot.

The monthly cost of rent (including maintenance fees and taxes) for Malibu Business & Shipping Center, located in Malibu Colony Plaza, jumped from approximately $14,000 in 2002 (when the business was called Mailboxes, Etc. under different ownership), to about $22,000 earlier this year, Nereida Heath, MBSC manager and CEO, said in a previous interview with The Malibu Times.

Unable to afford the heightened rent, MBSC has relocated to a shopping center at 22627 Pacific Coast Highway, where Pacific Computers use to be located.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place June 10, at noon, celebrating its new location, with local celebrities Loretta Swit, Dick Van Dyke and Shirley MacLaine attending.

On the northeast side of Malibu, the iconic Zuma cafe, which is located in the Zuma Beach parking lot and has been featured in numerous television commercials, has changed ownership and cuisine.

New owner Ronique Arutunyen, a 28-year-old self-proclaimed Malibu resident, on Tuesday said he has “completely turned the place inside out” by adding plasma televisions on the inside of the venue and planning to renovate its exterior and interior.

Arutunyen said the menu has been changed from that of a burger shack to a healthy cafe.

“It’s nothing like it used to be,” he said Tuesday in a phone interview. “We now have deli cases full of hearty sandwiches and salads. I want to make it like a fresh juice bar where you can get a power juice on the way to work. I want to cater to my community. We are soon going to start delivering.”

Arutunyen also mentioned the possibility of changing the venue name to Zuma Beach Club or Zuma Beach cafe.

In potential construction, the Planning Commission on Tuesday of this week, before this paper went to print, debated over whether to issue permits for the demolition of an existing abandoned AM/PM gas station, which has housed a temporary eco-friendly car wash for the past several months, located at 22729 Pacific Coast Highway.

If approved, the plan would allow the construction of a new, 2,499-square-foot commercial office building with a rooftop parking lot; a vehicular ramp connecting the rooftop parking lot to an existing parking lot located directly north of the subject property, the installation of an alternative onsite wastewater treatment system; hardscape landscaping and grading, among other construction variances.

Coverage of the Planning Commission meeting will be included in next week’s newspaper and on later this week.