Guido’s a goner, retail debate looms

Point Pizza rally

The stakes of Thursday’s highly anticipated town hall forum on a formula retail ordinance were thrown into stark relief this week with confirmation that two restaurants that helped ignite the debate will be closing at the end of the month. 

Guido’s Restaurant and Point Pizza are both shutting down at the witching hour on New Year’s Eve, according to owner Antonio Castanos and spokesman Charles Lee, respectively. 

Castanos confirmed he is closing down for good in a letter to The Malibu Times, after failing to reach a lease agreement with Village owner Matt Khoury. 

“Reflecting on the time brings many wonderful memories that you helped to create,” Castanos wrote to customers. “Unfortunately, the time has come to close this location and move on.” 

The closure has been in the works for months after news first broke in October that lease negotiations hit a dead end between the two parties. New Year’s Eve will be the restaurant’s final night in business, according to Castanos. 

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Khoury told The Malibu Times he continues negotiations with a Malibu-based owner to take over the restaurant space. 

The imminent closing of Point Pizza at Point Dume Village, an announcement that sparked several demonstrations by local preservationists, remains scheduled for Dec. 31. D’Amore’s Naturally, the second D’Amore’s in Malibu and the first all-natural, organic D’Amore’s, will take over Point Pizza’s space. 

Point Pizza’s owner has not ruled out opening another location elsewhere in Malibu, but finding the right space has proven unsuccessful. 

“We haven’t been able to find a good location [in Malibu],” said Charles Lee, a spokesperson for owner Hyesong Oh. 

Oh inquired with the owner of the Trancas Shopping Center, but was told Trancas had filled its restaurant quota. She was unable to extend her lease agreement with Dume Village landlord Zan Marquis. Savory Restaurant shut down at Dume Village for similar reasons in November. 

Several small restaurant closures in Malibu this year—and the uproar that followed—led the City Council in November to request a drafted ordinance that would regulate chain stores wishing to set up shop in the Civic Center. Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal called it a possible first step toward other ordinances regulating businesses in the eastern and western parts of Malibu. 

Backers of a retail ordinance for Malibu believe the city’s character and uniqueness will lose its luster if chain businesses continue renting up vacant spaces in shopping centers. They also fear rising rental rates and common area expenses making it hard for small business owners to afford leases in Malibu. Opponents of the ordinance, however, believe such an order would impede upon the free market and possibly violate the federal Constitution. 

Thursday evening’s town hall aims to gather input on the chain store ordinance and how the city defines “community serving” businesses. 

Chamber reiterates opposition to formula retail 

The Malibu Chamber of Commerce, which has come under criticism from City Councilman John Sibert for contributing to divisiveness in the formula retail and business diversification controversy, reiterated its opposition to a formula retail ordinance in an email that went out to members last week. 

“Supporters of this proposal say the goal of the ordinance is to ‘sustain’ local business. However, we believe that nationally recognized businesses actually help smaller local businesses succeed by attracting a larger customer base to our centers,” the letter stated. The letter was written collectively by the Chamber’s Board of Directors. 

Board Chairman Don Schmitz said the board unanimously opposes the ordinance and he hopes Thursday’s forum proves that the definition of “community serving” business is not clear-cut in Malibu. 

“It’s not a one size fits all in regards to what is a community serving business,” Schmitz said. 

The letter was similar to an email sent in 2011 by former Chamber executive director Rebekah Evans warning that all Malibu businesses could be “shut down” as a result of a formula retail ordinance. Evans later apologized for the email, which the Chamber’s Board of Directors said was not read before it was sent out. Evans mysteriously resigned earlier this year amid reports that the Board of Directors forced her to quit. 

“We’re not going to make that mistake again where we send out letters and we don’t review them,” Schmitz said. “That really did unnecessarily inflame people with a different perspective.” 

As for the letter that went out last week, Schmitz says he has not received any negative feedback.