[Update, Oct. 9, 12:10 p.m.:] A 50th birthday bash caused the shuttering of the Malibu West Beach Club, according to a report from LA County Public Health that was shared with The Malibu Times.
The Department of Public Health's investigation into Malibu West Beach Club was triggered by a complaint about the club "going forward with a wedding with out-of-town visitors and guests in excess of 50" made on Sept. 26, 2020, a Department of Public Health representative told The Malibu Times via email. An inspector visited the club on Sept. 26 and found that the club was indeed holding a 50th birthday party event that violated county public health orders and that the club had at least three more events scheduled.
The Department of Public Health's official orders were for the club to "discontinue holding social gathering events." On Sept. 26, officers noted not only were there three upcoming events scheduled, but they "observed an event staging for this evening," in "violation of [the] health officer order."
The inspector acknowledged that the club had signage posted and spoke to club managers, who said they would cancel the upcoming events. The inspector told the club that it would be re-inspected on Oct. 3, 2020, and failure to comply with health orders upon re-inspection would result in a minimum $500 fine.
Malibu West Swim Club—better known locally as Malibu West Beach Club—was closed by county health officials at the end of September due to COVID-19 health order violations until further notice.
According to Malibu Mayor Mikke Pierson, himself a Malibu West resident who has been on the club’s board in the past, “a county health inspector showed up at Malibu West Swim Club and observed a lot of people on the beach in close proximity without masks or social distancing,” including groups of up to 20 people. Pierson, who was not present on the day the club was shut down, said in an interview with The Malibu Times that he was told the health officer was cordial but direct, acknowledging that the club had signage up and was trying to enforce social distancing but stating out that the club’s efforts clearly were not working.
Pierson paraphrased what he understood to be the club representative on site at the time’s response: “Yup, I hear ya loud and clear, we’re not gonna disagree with you.”
Malibu West residents were alerted to the closure immediately via email. Residents may now still use their key fobs to cross the parking lot to get to the public beach, but may not go to the private beach club at this time.
The private community beach is run by the local homeowners association. Around 280 homeowners, Pierson said, pay monthly dues toward the upkeep of the club, which is supplemented by money made from renting the spot out for weddings or film shoots.
Representatives for the club and the homeowners association did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Pierson said that though he did not know about or help to lodge a complaint against the club, he has helped a few other residents file complaints about other places a few months and “both [were] followed up very quickly by [the LA] County Health [Department].”
Pierson announced the closure at the Tuesday, Sept. 29, city council meeting, connecting it to his push for an ordinance that would fine residents not wearing masks in public. “The Malibu West Beach Club is now closed until further notice. A hard shutdown,” Pierson described to Zoom meeting attendees. “So, if you think that’s not a real thing, I can tell ya, at the Malibu West Beach Club, we are done, shut, doors are locked.” Pierson’s ordinance will be brought to council during its next meeting on Monday, Oct. 12. This is Pierson’s second attempt at enacting a mask ordinance; his prior ordinance suggestion was an “urgency ordinance” that needed four out of five council members’ approval, but gained support from only three: Pierson, Karen Farrer and Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner. This time it will need only a simple majority to pass.
Jurisdiction over health orders lies with Los Angeles County, not the City of Malibu; the city occasionally helps redirect complaints about COVID-19 safety violations to county health officials when it receives them, Matt Myerhoff, a city representative said. Myerhoff declined to share whether or not the city has received complaints about other local facilities, but Pierson mentioned that the city did “call ... an airstrike on itself” when it had trouble enforcing social distancing at Malibu Bluffs Park earlier this year.
Private businesses that have been issued citations due to lack of compliance with a public health order are listed on LA County Public Health’s website. The list is updated weekly. As of Tuesday, Oct. 6, it did not include Malibu West Beach Club.
COVID-19 local update
The LA County Health Department announced on its website that one member of Malibu’s homeless community tested positive for the virus while attending a Malibu United Methodist Church food distribution event the first week of October; however, Kay Gabbard, speaking on behalf of the church’s homeless outreach program, told KBUU News the individual who tested positive was not on the grounds of MUMC on Morning View Drive. According to the radio station, the positive test result came from an unhoused person who attended a food distribution event on old Malibu Road, behind the old post office in the Malibu Civic Center.
According to reporting from KBUU: “St. Thomas Center from Santa Monica has a weekly COVID-19 test for anyone who walks up Wednesdays there and hands out sandwiches to people for free to attract people. The St. Thomas workers returned Friday, when several Malibu residents also hand out sandwiches on the street there. The person who tested positive was offered a room to quarantine in in Santa Monica, and accepted.” Persons who came into contact with the individual who tested positive have all entered self-isolation, according to the report.
The additional case brings Malibu’s total count of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients to 104 since the first residents were confirmed to have caught the virus in April.
County wide, new cases of the novel coronavirus have slowed since a summertime peak, leading to LA County approving the reopening of indoor malls (to a maximum of 25 percent capacity) and playgrounds at parks, both of which have been shut down since March. The playground at Malibu Bluffs Park reopened with restrictions on Monday, Oct. 5. Charts depicting new deaths reported and total daily COVID-19 related hospitalizations both indicated steady decreases since July 1.