Malibu is known throughout the world for its incredible beaches. But as plenty of surfers, beach bums, and regular old visitors can attest, accessing those beaches can be a real challenge. In a place where parking is limited and the installation of a simple staircase allowing public beach access can face decades of legal opposition, it’s no surprise that some people end up paying an arm and a leg for a little time in the sand.
According to The Malibu Times, the California Coastal Commission last month began investigating claims that the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe was charging a $20 "daily beach club membership" fee to access the beach. The restaurant also operates a beachfront parking lot (with rates up to $50 per day), and an enforcement supervisor from the Coastal Commission tells the Times that beachgoers who did not pay the fee were told they could not access the Paradise Cove pier or one of the beach areas beside it.
The LA Times reports that on June 16 the Coastal Commission sent a letter to Kissel Co., the company that owns the cafe, threatening fines of $11,250 per day if they didn’t knock it off. Though Kissel Co. has the pier leased until 2019, the pier—and the beach around it—are open to the public, and the cafe is required to allow access.
Steven Dahlberg, a principal of the subsidiary of Kissel Co. that operates the cafe, tells The Malibu Times that the fee was simply for use of the cafe’s private amenities, including showers and restrooms. Of course, looking at one of the signs advertising the fee (below), it’s easy to see how beachgoers might have been confused about what they were paying for. The sign does not mention any particular amenities, but emphasizes a "no re-entry" policy, implying visitors cannot come and go from the beach as they please.
@paradisecovebeachcafe As you know we are the Gypsy Travelers and we travel all over the world but we reside in California. Today we parked are car on the PCH and were really excited to go and have breakfast at the Cafe in Paradise Cove. I would not recommend this place unless you and your family want to get totally soaked in $$$$. They charge you $6 just to walk into the place and would rather have your $6 then you going into the cafe to eat. The outside manger sitting in his airstream was arrogant and could careless if we ate at the establishment. All he wanted was his $6. So save your money and take your family to somewhere other then one of the biggest tourist traps on the entire PCH!! #paradisecove #paradisecovemalibu #paradisecovebeachcafe #malibu #cali
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time the cafe has gotten in trouble for restricting access to the beach. In 2014, the Coastal Commission sent another threatening letter to Kissel Co. after cafe staff reportedly demanded money from surfers trying to get to the beach and closed off the pier from public access.
The LA Times reports that Kissel Co. is complying with the demands of the Coastal Commission and has even posted a block of text on their website explaining that access to the pier is free and open to the public. No word on whether people who paid that $20 membership fee can expect a refund.
Trouble in Paradise [Malibu Times]