A rent spike forced the yacht club out of its Marina del Rey ballroom, but the party isn’t over

By Gary Walker

Even the luxury yacht business is susceptible to the pressures of a red-hot real estate market.

Facing a “substantial” rent increase, FantaSea Yachts & Yacht Club in Marina del Rey closed its longtime banquet hall and ballroom on Admiralty Way for good on Aug. 24 in order to save jobs and focus on its charter business, owner Daniel Ginzburg said.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for all of us,” Ginzburg said of leaving FantaSea’s waterside home of 20 years, a 250-plus venue with a hardwood dance floor canopied by a ceiling of sparkling fiber-optic stars.

The bitter: FantaSea — which has hosted wedding, corporate, retirement and graduation parties in Marina del Rey since 1980 — is pairing down its operations to concentrate solely on the charter business.

The sweet: The club will continue operating its fleet of three luxury yachts in Marina del Rey, and no one’s getting laid off.

Ginzburg said keeping the banquet and ballroom would have required a staff reduction or raising charter prices, neither of which he was willing to do.

“We have employees who have been with us for several years — decades — and we didn’t want to lose any of our valuable employees or pass the costs onto our customers,” he said. “We’re going to take advantage of today’s technology and have a virtual office through our website. We’ll be able to meet customers on our yachts and continue to serve them as we have for 36 years. It was a wonderful facility, but our specialty was always yachts.”

Ginzburg declined to specify the rent increase asked for by landlords Essex Property Trust, and Essex Property Trust Community Manager Valerie Cruz did not respond to requests for comment.

Marina del Rey Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Janet Zaldua said she is sorry to see FantaSea lose their banquet hall but is optimistic about the future of the business.

“FantaSea Yachts & Yacht Club has been a pillar in the community for decades. The family-owned business has provided a variety of unique venues for social events, weddings and meetings that thousands of people have enjoyed over the years,” Zaldua said. “While it’s disappointing that the marina has lost the FantaSea Yacht Club waterfront ballroom, I have no doubt the staff at FantaSea Yachts will continue to provide the public with stellar event planning service aboard their fleet of yachts.”

Returning customers won’t have to look far to find FantaSea’s new home. The company is now docking its yachts just half a mile away, behind Tony P’s Dockside Grill and Los Angeles County Fire Station #110 next door.

Ginzburg, who began working in the family business while still a teenager, said he understands that Westside real estate is in high demand, making it an optimal time for landlords to maximize rents.

“Markets go up and down, and right now the market is high. For a small mom-and-pop business it’s not so great, but in any event the show has to go on,” he said.

But Ginzburg also looks forward to getting back to basics for the next chapter in the company’s history.

“It’s really about the people, and watching our family grow up. We’ve had three generations of owners, and in many cases at least two generations of staff,” he said.

“The future’s exciting, and we’ll be bracing ourselves for a sometimes wild ride. But we’re committed to the future, and we’ll allow our history in the marina with our yachts to speak for us.”