PCH ‚Äî Casa Malibu Inn is checking out for the last time.
The hotel, a beachfront staple along Pacific Coast Highway near the Malibu Pier for more than 60 years, has served as an escape for celebrities, tourists and Malibu locals alike since 1950, manager Richard Page said in an interview this week. But on Sept. 10, its lease will run out.
“It‚Äôs definitely the end of an era in Malibu,” said Page, who has leased and managed the hotel with his wife Joan since 1991.
Through his decades of managing the hotel, Page knew certain clients chose the Casa Malibu Inn as their getaway for a special reason.
“They like coming here because we give them privacy,” he said.
Famous guests have included Lana Turner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Robert De Niro and Susan Sarandon.
Ironically, the Inn‚Äôs reputation for discretion among celebrities attracted a steady stream of tourists and stargazers.
“One time we had this woman who was persistent on trying to see a movie star, and she was at the front desk [asking me], ‚ÄòWhere do I go to see a movie star?‚Äô” Page said. “And behind her walked a guest who was a major film star. He was walking up right behind her, heard the conversation, looked at me and just smiled, nodded and winked and kept right on walking.”
Who was the star? Page said his lips are sealed.
The future of the space now falls into the hands of software billionaire and Malibu real estate baron Larry Ellison, who purchased the property in 2007 for $20 million. Ellison is said to have major renovation plans to convert the space into a high-end hotel to correspond with Nobu restaurant, just two doors down from Casa Malibu.
Nobu Matsuhisa, the chef Nobu is named for, told Haute Living magazine in July about plans for the hotel.
“Larry wants to try for a Japanese concept hotel,” Matsuhisa said in the interview. “They say it‚Äôs going to start construction in September.”
Matsuhisa successfully opened his first hotel inside of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with his business partner, De Niro, this past April.
When asked if he approved of rumored plans for the hotel, Page did not wish to comment.
“It‚Äôs not for me to say. It‚Äôs their vision, it‚Äôs not mine,” he said.
Talks of the remodel first surfaced in May when the Malibu Planning Commission approved renovation plans to overhaul the interior and reduce the number of rooms from 21 to 16.
Severine Tatangelo, co-owner of the Malibu design and development firm Studio PCH, is working on the Casa Malibu Inn renovation. Tatangelo, a trusted architect for Ellison, helped design Nobu restaurant and the recently opened Nikita restaurant.
Despite media reports that the entire Casa Malibu building would be demolished, Malibu City Planning Director Joyce Parker- Bozylinski said the permit issued by the city last May does not allow for complete destruction of the site. But workers could still gut most of the inside.
“They received a [coastal development permit] for a remodel,” she said in an e-mail. “It is a major remodel, so when the work begins, the only thing that will probably be left standing is 50 percent of the walls.”
No matter what type of hotel the old Casa Malibu eventually becomes, Page said its beach location will forever remain the key draw for guests.
“Even if somebody has traveled all day long, the airline has lost their luggage, their flights were late, they got stuck in traffic ‚Ä¶ they get here, and if they‚Äôre on the beach for half an hour they come in with a huge smile on their face,” Page said. “They‚Äôre happy and refreshed that quickly. That‚Äôs a pleasure that was always¬† rewarding for us.”
This story first appeared in The Malibu Times.