The restaurant, which opened to great fanfare in 1991, will close Saturday. Meanwhile, a new restaurant opens on PCH.

By Lori Allen / Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu will be losing an eatery that has served many celebrities, locals and other visitors traveling to Malibu Colony Shopping Plaza since 1991. Wolfgang Puck's and Barbara Lazaroff's eclectic under-the-sea-themed restaurant, Granita Malibu, will be closing Saturday. The two owners decided they did not want to renew their lease.

High rents in the Malibu commercial arena have been forcing many businesses to make changes; the owners of John's Garden Fresh at the Malibu Country Mart were forced to cut their space in half when Koss Real Estate Investments raised its rental fees, and the Bernie Safire Salon also had to reduce its space by half. Its a recurring theme throughout Malibu, with many mom-and-pop businesses struggling with rising rents.

The going rate three years ago for retail space in Malibu, according to a local Realtor, was estimated at $5 per square foot, plus triple-net charges (fees for maintenance, taxes, insurance, landscaping and gardening) at more than $1 per square foot. Now, estimates are around $7 per square foot, making it prohibitively expensive for some businesses to not only make a profit, but also just to stay open.

Meanwhile, Puck, who opened the fame Spago on Sunset Boulevard in 1982, and partner Lazaroff, along with other partners, will continue to oversee their empire that includes 12 fine dining restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Palo Alto and Maui, and 51 casual dining and quick service restaurants in nationwide urban centers, airports and supermarkets.

Locals mourn the impending loss of Granita.

Malibu Colony resident Mike Silverman wrote in a letter to the editor this week, "I can't let the closing of Granita come to pass without lamenting its demise. It has been an integral part of Malibu's social life for so many years."

The restaurant's food, as well as its fantastical design, drew many locals and it was the scene of many parties and events in the past decade.

"Granita has been a very special place for me to cook, with a very special Malibu clientele that I do not want to leave behind," Chef Jennifer Naylor said.

"We have not been told what will follow in the Granita space, but all of Malibu is waiting with great anticipation to see what these next few years will bring them in the way of dining," she added. "I hope I will always continue to be a part of it in one form or another."

The restaurant will be serving a celebration dinner on Sept. 21, catered by chefs Puck, Naylor and Lee Hefter. Dinners are priced at $65 and include an appetizer, main course and desert.

Naylor will be continuing her private catering and special event services including small and large dinner parties, cooking classes, children's parties and consulting. At this time Puck's longtime protégé does not plan to work at another restaurant chain but hopes to remain in the Malibu area feeding her fans.

Other eatery changes in Malibu

Last Month, Malibu welcomed Lino's Restaurant to its selection of restaurants. Lino's is a family-owned and operated business that features an open bar, wine tasting events, tapas menu, and plenty of California cooking as well as other international cuisines. The main dining menu includes many Mediterranean flavors mixed with French and Italian influences. Certain specials are imported pastas, the Kobe beef burger and a wide variety of salads.

Owners Chef Lino Savoia and wife Sam are no strangers to the restaurant business. For the past 16 years, Lino was co-owner of Café Delfini in Santa Monica and Lino has been a chef for 25 years.

"We have lived here for six years and are happy to be doing something as a family in Malibu," Sam said. "We hope this will be something different from all the restaurants in the area."

Lino's Restaurant is located at 21337 PCH, where the old Malibu Sheriff's Station used to be.

The new Malibu Beach Grill, which replaced the old Malibu Chicken restaurant on PCH near the Malibu Pier, brings something different to the area and provides a place for observant Jews in the community to maintain their dietary laws in public. The Glatt Kosher eatery has been owned by the Bogartz family since last August. They tout their establishment as an informal surfside setting fitted for an eclectic mix of locals, city folk and tourists looking for good and healthy food. Longtime cook Ernesto continues to oversee the kitchen staff.

"Being kosher does not limit our customers choices, it just means we're offering a better standard of food," explained owner Joyce Brooks Bogartz in a statement.

Kosher eating means food must be prepared in accordance with the Jewish dietary laws, and Malibu Beach Grill offers a full menu of kosher items and specialty cuisines. Meats and fowl must be slaughtered by a specialized expert and adhere to all policies according to the Bible. Glatt refers to the smoothness of an animal's lungs, which are inspected by a Rabbi for adhesions and holes.

Malibu Beach Grill also features Shor Habor Beef, which is a fine quality of kosher beef and known already to be a favorite among patrons. Other menu specials are fish tacos, BBQ skirt steak, corn on the cob, pastas, beach named burgers and homemade desserts.

Malibu Beach Grill is located at 22935 PCH.

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