City officials accuse Nobu of not being a good neighbor

Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

July 4 overcrowding incident has residents and city officials fuming 

Malibu city leaders, along with the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department, are working together to head off any future overcrowding incidents at Nobu restaurant. The latest incident at the popular, high-end destination seafood establishment July 4 caused a traffic headache still being talked about by those stuck in what one driver called a “two-hour backup.”

The July 4 traffic nightmare was apparently the result of an unpermitted event that was attended by as many as 700 guests. The typically crowded parking lot at the famed restaurant was so overwhelmed with cars that drivers resorted to abandoning their vehicles in the center turn lane on Pacific Coast Highway. Chaos ensued on the already congested PCH filled with beachgoers on Independence Day. 

“There were party buses, limousines, and private coaches,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Christopher Soderlund told the Malibu City Council on July 10. “There wasn’t any parking for them, so they basically took over the center median of PCH and left their vehicles there.” 

“That’s a major violation of their CUP (Conditional Use Permit),” according to Interim City Attorney Trevor Rusin, addressing the incident at the City Council meeting.

At a July 12 Malibu Public Safety Commission meeting, Chair Chris Frost reported that he received a bunch of calls from residents angry at the traffic nightmare. 

“We know that the building is overcrowded,” Frost said and he suggested requiring Nobu to hire a fire safety officer to be on the premises on weekends and holidays. “A person in uniform will make a big difference. It could help curb the problem. If people know they’re not getting in and they’ve got to get out and they can’t park in the parking lot, and the parking lot was shut down it would make a big difference. It’s been a problem every warm holiday, really. It was noted at the meeting this is not the first time the celebrated restaurant has violated its CUP.” 

According to Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Keegan Gibbs, in his years on the committee the issue “keeps coming up” at the Nobu and Soho House property. 

“I think Capt. Seetoo has been really good in the past,” Gibbs said. “When she was our liaison on high traffic weekends she’d get a deputy down there. That was the thing that really ever created any effect. Seetoo would place traffic cones in the center median in front of Nobu so westbound traffic wasn’t able to make a left from the middle lane.”  

Gibbs said he’s concerned about the six or seven more crowded summer weekends ahead and hopes the city, sheriff, and the restaurant will find a solution quickly.

Malibu Public Safety Commission Vice Chair Josh Spiegel said it appears Nobu is operating with impunity. 

“It’s gotten to a point over there where they’re just kind of spitting in our faces,” he said. “This is the city’s face, the sheriff’s face. They’re doing whatever they want. We spent a lot of time on this nuisance ordinance. I think it’s time for Malibu to flex its muscles. Something needs to happen. They’re just doing whatever they want.” 

Spiegel suggested possible fines for violating nuisance ordinances. 

City Councilmember Doug Stewart, who for years served on the Malibu Public Safety Commission, brought up the episode at the council meeting July 10, calling for an investigation. 

“What I would say is that the Nobu actions were totally unacceptable,” Stewart said to The Malibu Times. “Public safety was jeopardized, and there were likely violations of the Nobu operating requirements from the city. As was stated in the council meeting the city will be investigating and I would expect the Fire Department to be doing so as well due to overcrowding. Such egregious actions cannot be tolerated.”

City Manager Steve McClary said an investigation is underway and that “The investigation will determine any appropriate action.”

A meeting with Nobu management, Malibu city officials, and Lost Hills/Malibu sheriff’s personnel was scheduled for Tuesday, July 18, just before The Malibu Times went to press.

Seetoo told TMT the restaurant seems committed to finding a solution. “We’re going to work on protocols and set parameters. They seem willing to work with us,” she said.

The Malibu Times emailed management of Nobu restaurant asking whether it wanted to make a statement to the community about the July 4 incident and if it is taking steps to respond to neighborhood concerns. So far there has been no response.