Savory owner Paul Shoemaker detailed the events leading up to the forced closure of his restaurant Friday in a letter to the Malibu City Council.
The sudden closure of Savory on Nov. 7 shook the Malibu community, which was still reeling from news that Point Pizza Malibu, which is located next to Savory, would be closing in December after the landlord opted not to renew the lease.
Shoemaker claims in the letter that Point Dume Village owner Zan Marquis stated he wanted to close the restaurant days before issuing an eviction notice, changing the locks and calling the sheriff's department.
Earlier this month, Marquis issued a statement expressing disappointment at the closure, and claiming that Shoemaker opted to close the restaurant because he had defaulted in his rent.
On Friday, Shoemaker disputed Marquis' assertions. Here is Shoemaker's letter:
Dear Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, Council Members and City Manager,
It is not my style to write letters like this. I do not typically respond to things that I believe to be false – especially when I believe that people should recognize the falsity without anyone having to come forward and make a challenge. Nonetheless, I have been bombarded with questions about the closing of Savory Restaurant and, therefore, find myself compelled to respond to the sham claims made by my landlord and putative partner, Zan Marquis.
As with many, I came to Malibu to make a home for my family. Unlike Zan, I live in Malibu; my son attends school here; this is myhome. At the time I moved my family here, I was a very well respected chef, having recently earned my first Michelin star. Zan Marquis sought me out, claiming that he was turning the Point Dume Village into a world class shopping center, that I and my new restaurant would be a centerpiece of that vision, and that the restaurant would receive all the support it needed to succeed. This was my first independent venture and, wide-eyed and hopeful, I believed the promises that were made and, foolishly, I thought of Zan as my friend who would look out for my benefit; sadly, I have come to recognize Zan as an opportunist, who looks out only for himself.
In the beginning, Zan forced Savory to open before the shopping center was ready. You might recall that the shopping center – especially in the parking lot in front of Savory’s entrance – had massive sewage and septic problems, causing atrocious smells and construction activity not conducive to an operating restaurant. Also, despite contrary promises, the building itself was not ready for Savory, because Zan never upgraded the infrastructure, including worn out plumbing and electrical systems, which remain from the original construction and which caused significant problems, including recurring plumbing, sewage and power outages. Zan was to fix the problems. He picked and managed a contractor, but failed to oversee him. The contractor did not pay his subcontractors and did shoddy work; among other things, he drilled holes into the sewage venting system running inside the walls of Savory, and he failed to install flashing for the kitchen floor, resulting in water seepage up the walls that caused the sinks and associated piping to come loose from the walls. Worst of all, Zan ultimately refused to pay many of the costs to repair his building, forcing Savory’s to bear the expense.
Zan also meddled extensively in Savory’s business, involving himself in everything from interior design elements to inventory to staffing to hours of operation. Almost everything that Zan demanded injured the business. Worse, everything cost money – money that Zan promised to pay, but never did.
Despite all of the above, Savory was flourishing. Savory was awarded Zagat’s Best Newcomer for 2012, identifying it as the best of almost 2400 new restaurants in Los Angeles, and was named one of the Top 10 best new restaurants in Los Angeles by Los Angeles Magazine.
I was even named a semifinalist for the James Beard Pacific Region Best Chef award. Such feats for a restaurant located 22 miles north of Santa Monica are astonishing. More importantly, Savory was becoming profitable; its year over yearsales were up substantially and – despite the very cyclical nature of business in Malibu – Savory had gained a foothold both as a local gathering place and a tourist destination. Unfortunately, Savory suffered a major financial blow from the boycott of the Point Dume Village caused by Zan’s callous disregard for the neighborhood, his tenants and the City of Malibu.
Zan’s letter to the community – which he sent to you and posted on a sandwich board in front of Savory – blames me for closing Savory; however, the claim is false. In fact, prior to the end of October, Zan informed me that he wanted to close Savory, which was not what I or our other partners wanted. On October 30, 2012, I wrote Zan a letter as both a partner and landlord. My intention was to start a dialogue that would address the issues described above and allow Savory to remain open and viable. Zan’s response was to serve Savory with a three day eviction notice on November 5 and, while Savory was closed for Election Day, Zan grabbed the space, permanently closing Savory by changing the locks and calling the police to prevent me and the Savory staff from entering the restaurant. As a result, Savory could not wind down in any orderly fashion, and many vendors and others – including me – remain unpaid. Since closing, Zan has assailed us with letters from lawyers and, while much thought has been given to taking legal action to address Zan’s improper action, we do not have the money to fight; so, Zan’s bullying tactics likely will carry the day.
Zan’s letter wants to make it look as though he put substantial money into Savory, and that I somehow abdicated my responsibilities by becoming involved in a new downtown business venture. First, the money Zan references is a pittance compared to the millions of dollars Zan has told me he put into other restaurant ventures (particularly near Magic Mountain), all of which he told me have failed miserably; more to the point, money he has been required to put into the repair and renovation of his shopping center is not properly allocated to Savory. Second, Zan’s fixation on my being involved in opening a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles is misplaced. I am proud to say that I am opening a small burger bar in downtown Los Angeles. Of course, my burger bar would not have competed in any way with Savory and should have been something Zan appreciated as a measure of our success. In other words, he should have been proud that others had chosen to back me in a new, non-competitive venture. Instead, Zan viewed this and any otherventure as some sort of betrayal and abandonment of him, which is why I believe that he closed Savory.
I hope that this letter answers your and others’ questions about the closure of Savory. I am proud to call Malibu my home, and had hoped and expected that Zan’s promises to support a spectacular, Michelin star chef run restaurant fit for a first-class Malibu venue would prove true. No one worked harder to make that happen, and no one is more disappointed that Savory is closed. As I said before, the closing of Savory was one of the saddest days of my life; I love Malibu and everyone here, and will never forget this amazing experience.
With gratitude and love,
In response, Marquis said the letter was an attempt to "thorw fuel" on the business dispute.
"When parties to an agreement or other relationship have a dispute, and one side consistently runs to the press or others to publicize his version of the story, rarely does that person tell the story in a manner that makes himself look like the one at fault. I intend to pursue this matter in the proper (hopefully private) forum, and wish Mr. Shoemaker well in his new venture," Marquis said.