Long-standing issues of Malibu code enforcement emerge against Nobu

Nobu resturaunt repordet;y paid $821 "After-the-fact" temporary use permit in response to the PCH traffic on July 4. Contributed photo.

Public records request reveals years of complaints 

After public outrage over an unpermitted event at upscale sushi restaurant Nobu on July 4, the City of Malibu claimed it would investigate and issue any appropriate fines or penalties. Now, there appears to be conflicting information from the city itself on what and if any fines at all were levied against Nobu for the July 4th traffic fiasco that the city’s own Public Safety Commission called “unacceptable.”

After the city met with Nobu management on July 24, it issued a statement claiming “Nobu agreed to pay all associated Code Enforcement fines and will be charged for fines, penalties and administrative fees for an ‘After-the-Fact’ TUP.” However, the city expressly stated it would not disclose the amount of the fines or penalties, in part because it “is an active Code Enforcement case.” In checking the city of Malibu’s own website under open code enforcement cases, none is listed for 22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Nobu’s address.

The response to a public records act request to obtain information on any enforcement suggested there were no fines or penalties, only an invoice to Nobu for an after-the-fact (TUP) Temporary Use Permit required for any event of more than 100 attendees, which Nobu had not applied for prior to the July 4 event. That bill from the city to Nobu was only $821, which could amount for dinner for two at the pricey establishment.

Further digging into released files on the case reveals that complaints from neighbors have been piling up. Records reviewed by The Malibu Times show more than a dozen email exchanges between a manager of a condominium complex located near the restaurant and the city’s Code Enforcement Office. The written complaints started in 2019 and continued through July 2023. 

The complaints include loud music with outdoor speakers, loud music coming from inside the restaurant, staging in the parking lot, no prenotification to residents for large-scale events, and lack of city follow-through on those complaints. 

The manager of the residential condo building wrote to the city: “The music and bass can be heard over the sound of the waves. We still believe there are speakers in the planter at the beachfront corner of Nobu that have not been removed. See attached photo of the planter and its close proximity to the living areas and balconies of the residential condominiums.”

As to the July 4 incident: “Can someone please tell me if the City’s policy has changed regarding neighbor pre-notification of special events? I feel like we go through this every year and our residents are disrupted every year. We would like the opportunity to provide comments before the event, not after.”

The complaint concluded: “We have reached out to code enforcement many times over the years.” 

The Malibu Times contacted the building manager who made repeated attempts in lodging complaints to the city requesting Nobu to comply with city rules. The manager said they are not authorized to make public comments and did not want to go on the record, requesting to not be identified. The Malibu Times is honoring that request. 

Documents obtained from a public records request include a Nobu employee professing to be ignorant of the city’s TUP rules, which are codified in the city’s municipal code. The restaurant’s special events manager wrote to city staff, regarding an upcoming reception for over 200 guests: “In the past when I have reached [out] for a TUP it was not required, but please advise.” This information is contrary to what LASD Sheriff’s Capt. Jennifer Seetoo and Public Safety Chair Chris Frost have said. The two met with Nobu management in 2019 to discuss expectations from the restaurant regarding code enforcement. Both have indicated management was aware a TUP was required. A cursory review of the city’s website clearly states “You will need a TUP if your activity involves any of the following: […] Rental of a facility (e.g., the rental of a facility to hold a wedding or other event).” 

The special events manager’s above quote related to a private event for 200-250 guests planned for Friday, Aug. 25, which the manager indicates is a dinner party and reception held annually at Nobu where the restaurant is entirely booked out. The restaurant indicates there will be valet service and a hedge constructed for the privacy of the guests. The city website also clearly states that a TUP is needed whenever an event charges for valet parking or, as was the case for the July 4 debacle, the event is advertised. There has been no word if neighbors have been notified of the upcoming Aug. 25 event. A TUP must be submitted a minimum of 35 days prior to the event date. A public notice is required to be issued 32 days prior to the event. Additionally, as the special events manager purportedly believed that no TUP was necessary for these events, it raises the question of whether Nobu has been violating the city’s limit of six TUPs for a non-residential establishment each year.