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Point Pizza rally

Point Pizza rally

More than 150 Malibu community members gathered at Point Dume Village last Friday afternoon to protest the imminent closing of Point Pizza Malibu. A second rally is scheduled for Friday at D’Amore’s Famous Pizza, which has signed a lease to open an organic pizza parlor in Point Pizza’s current location.

At the protest, local students, parents, small business owners, community activists and Malibu public officials showed up to voice their support for Point Pizza owner Hyesong Oh. Oh was recently denied a lease extension by Point Dume Village owner Zan Marquis and must close the restaurant in December after 26 years in business.

Protesters chanted, “Save Point Pizza!” throughout the rally and a large group marched together to the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Heathercliff Road. Several passing cars honked their horns in solidarity with the group’s cause.

The Save Point Pizza protest was organized on Facebook by 17-year-old Andy Borenzweig, a Malibu native who said he’s grown up going to Point Pizza every day, sometimes twice a day.

“I felt I owed it to Hyesong to do everything I possibly can to stop Point Pizza from closing,” Borenzweig said.

Many of the attendees were former employees of Point Pizza who worked for Oh while they were in high school, while others were parents who had been taking their children to Point Pizza for many years.

“Hopefully Zan Marquis will realize that the community’s voice is important and it’s not all about money,” said protester Daniel Chavira.

Oh did not participate in the rally but served food as supporters poured into Point Pizza. In a prepared statement, she thanked community members for rallying together to try and save her business.

“I have been privileged to see the kids grow up in this community and bring their own children into my store,” Oh said. “I do not think this rally represents support for just my shop but for all the small businesses in Malibu.”

Malibu City Council members Skylar Peak, Laura Rosenthal and John Sibert also attended the rally to express support for Point Pizza and Malibu’s other small business.

“It’s another local business I hate to see closing,” Sibert said.

When asked if the city would take any action to address the loss of local small businesses, Sibert said the City Council will likely revisit a citywide retail diversification ordinance following the closures of local favorites such as Point Pizza and Guido’s Italian Restaurant.

“We’re probably going to have to start doing something about it,” he said.

To take Point Pizza’s place, Marquis signed a new lease agreement with D’Amore’s Famous Pizza. The chain has 10 stores throughout Southern California.

The new branch will be the chain’s second Malibu location and the first of its brand to serve entirely organic and natural ingredients, Point Dume Village property manager Kathryn Natalia said last week.

News that a local pizza shop would replace the venerated Point Pizza has prompted opponents to plan a protest for 4 p.m. Friday at D’Amore’s current east Malibu location.

D’Amore’s owner Joe D’Amore defended the decision in a telephone interview with The Malibu Times.

“Zan approached me and said there was going to be a vacancy on January 1 of next year, so I said yes, I’d be interested,” said D’Amore.

There were three pizza places in the running, according to D’Amore, and his pizza was Zan’s top choice after a taste test. “Even if I had said no, there would have been two other pizza places in line behind me.”

D’Amore said he was told by Marquis that he had asked Oh on three separate occasions over the last couple of years to fix up her place and improve the quality of her product.

But Charles Lee, Oh’s son-in-law, said Marquis had indicated no displeasure with the operation until recently.

“In the one meeting we had several years ago with Zan, he said he wanted to see more gourmet items on the menu, so [Oh] did that,” Lee said. “She also remodeled the front of her store about three years ago. At the time he emailed and said he was happy with the upgrade and that was a very positive step. Never heard anything more until mid-August of this year. And that was the time they mentioned [making all items on the menu] organic, which we said we could do.”

Lee said Oh had two meetings with Point Dume Village property manager Kathryn Natalia in August about renewing the lease.

On Sept. 21, Lee said he received an email from Marquis stating he had not made a decision. On Oct. 3 Lee received an email declining to renew the lease.

Marquis did not return phone calls for comment. When reached by telephone Monday, Point Dume Village property manager Kathryn Natalia also declined to comment.

D’Amore said he has instructed his employees to give free pizza to protesters on Friday.

“That’s fine that they’re protesting, I want everyone to exercise their god-given right,” said D’Amore. “I would like to exercise my right by opening a store in western Malibu.”

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