The once elegant and beautiful Lobster Trap Restaurant in Oxnard, California is closed and left abandoned on the Channel Islands Harbor Marina. Next door, its sister building, the Casa Sirena Hotel is also slowly deteriorating.
The Lobster Trap Restaurant and Casa Sirena Hotel were built in 1972. Due to the popularity of the resort, Casa Sirena Annex was built next to the hotel to accommodate the seasonal crowd.
Sirena means mermaid in Spanish and there are statutes of them around the complex.
A fountain with a slender mermaid holding up bowl of water to the sky is dry and lifeless at the entrance to The Lobster Trap Restaurant. The once green landscape has become brown and dusty. The building is slowly decaying in the ocean breeze.
Great blue herons are perched on the roof standing guard over the once vibrant resort.
Lex and his late father had been dining at The Lobster Trap a number of times. I was able to visit there once in 2010. Despite seeing the wear and tear of some of the seating cushions in the dining booths, it’s not hard to imagine how this restaurant had once been an elegant dining establishment.
We were told by our server that the restaurant was closing soon and would be torn down as well as the hotel next door and rebuilt by 2012. The project was supposed to start within a few months. At the time, I was looking forward to seeing the new restaurant and enjoyed watching the serene view of the marina while dining on continental cuisine.
Well, the restaurant closed first and then so did Casa Sirena hotel. And that was it. It has remained closed since then.
The dining tables still has white tablecloths and salt and pepper shakers on it. It looks as if everyone had left in a hurry and never came back. Chairs are scattered about with some old festive decorations still hanging from the chandeliers in one of the event rooms. It was such an eerie scene.
We walked around to the other side of the restaurant hoping to get back to the parking lot but a gate had been locked shut. Before doubling back, we found another path that led to the hotel area. Inside one of the rooms, there were old file cabinets and dusty chairs stacked hastily about.
Before, we left we drove through the Casa Sirena parking lot. The entrance also had a beautiful lonely mermaid waiting for the visitors to arrive. The hotel was getting to look pretty shabby. The fencing along the room balconies were beginning to fall apart. The outdoor lights were strangely lit but the steps to the upper lever were boarded shut. The little gift shop was still there.
In 2006, Casa Sirena Annex was remodeled and converted to a Hampton Inn.
As a bit of trivia, the developer who was responsible for the seaside hotel and restaurant was Martin V. “Bud” Smith. He developed much of the property in Oxnard, California and built numerous restaurants, apartments, hotels which included the midcentury roadside attraction, The Wagon Wheel Motel (demolished in 2011). Martin Smith passed away in 2001 but was known to have entertained many happy guests on his yacht he named the “Dry Martini”.
Exploring an abandoned place often has a level of excitement mixed with the obvious curiosity of discovery. But I had an entirely different feeling when Neek and I explored the Lobster Trap restaurant in Oxnard, California. That’s because of my personal history: when this restaurant is in operation, I ate here many times with my late father, with my siblings, and with Neek. It was a really wonderful old-school sit-down seafood restaurant with attentive waiters, an impressive menu (the lobster thermidor was simply the best!) and an absolutely stunning view of the harbor.
But now the place has been abandoned for over six years. Yet there are still so many things left behind that triggered happy memories for me. There is a beautiful statue of a mermaid outside the entrance to the restaurant still standing and still in fairly good condition.
The windows are extremely dirty, but you can still see the inside of the restaurant. The tables are still next to the booths, some still have tablecloths, some even have salt and pepper shakers filled and ready to use.
As Neek and I walked around the place, we saw that it was not just the Lobster Trap that was all locked up. The building next door was closed as well. Exploring deeper, we found out that Casa Sirena, which was a huge hotel by the marina, was completely shut down. You could still see inside some of the rooms. Many of them were filled with the clutter of old newspapers and torn-up furniture. We drove around the parking lot of the hotel, which was mostly empty, though we were surprised to see a few lights were still on, so there must still be electricity in the building.
Our exploration through Lobster Trap and Casa Sirena was a trip back in time. While it’s strange to see a place that brought so many happy memories fall into abandonment, we hope our journey through what’s left might illuminate some of what made it such a great destination.