Japan-Based College Buys Historic Glen Tavern Inn

Times Staff Writer

Santa Paula’s Glen Tavern Inn, a historic Ventura County landmark that dates from 1911, has been sold to a Japanese business college for slightly more than $2 million, both sides of the deal said this week.

Tokyo Business College will convert the Craftsman-style hotel into a residential Center for Western Studies where up to 100 business students will learn the English language and Western culture in intensive 90-day seminars beginning as soon as May 11, director Sue Ellen Arimitsu said.

The college, which specializes in international business programs, has 13 campuses throughout Japan. It has branches in Seoul and Taipei, but the Glen Tavern marks Tokyo Business College’s first venture in the United States.

Arimitsu said the school’s directors were enchanted by Santa Paula’s quaint character and impressed by the three-story Glen Tavern, which has fallen upon hard times recently as a hotel and restaurant.


“We’re very happy with the site. The building is beautiful and Santa Paula is a real typical American small town,” Arimitsu said. Besides, “we got a nice reception from the city.”

Bidding ‘Sayonara’

Indeed, if Santa Paula’s city fathers are bidding a fond sayonara to their historic hotel, they are greeting the Tokyo Business College Center for Western Studies with an equally eager konnichiwa .

Each student probably will spend $4,000 to $5,000 during the three-month stay on meals, entertainment and souvenirs, Arimitsu said, which will prove a boon to the area’s merchants.


“It’s going to bring a real economic spark of vitality to Santa Paula,” Mayor Carl Barringer said. “This could bring a whole new approach to life in Santa Paula.”

The economic vitality will be enhanced by cultural cross-pollination.

Tokyo Business College officials say they plan to offer classes for local residents in introductory Japanese and traditional arts such as flower arranging, tea ceremonies and watercolor painting.

In exchange, Japanese students will take advantage of recreational programs offered by the city of Santa Paula such as golf, music and dance. The visitors, most of whom will be 18 to 20 years old, will get around on bicycles; the school prohibits them from driving in the United States, Arimitsu said.

Will Keep Name

The school also plans to keep the Glen Tavern name. Students will live on the second and third floors and be schooled by American teachers in English, music, culture, and U.S. history and government. The program is comparable to the “semester abroad” offered by many American campuses, Arimitsu said.

Terms of the sale call for the Glen Tavern Restaurant and Bar on the first floor to remain open to the public. Both have been under new management since Dec. 1, and the restaurant offers upscale Italian, Mexican and American cuisine.

“It’s a real positive plan for the community because it continues to have the Glen Tavern enjoyed by the community as well as shared by a different culture,” Barringer said.


Howard Bolton, president of the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, echoed the mayor’s views.

“This helps the community. Being a business person, I’d rather see the thing active, and it hasn’t been real active recently,” Bolton said.

The sale to Tokyo Business College is the latest chapter in the illustrious and at times eerie history of the Glen Tavern Inn, the only hotel in the county that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Watering Hole

Built by a consortium of Santa Paula investors, the Glen Tavern soon became a watering hole for guests from the flourishing oil and citrus industries.

In the 1920s, the film industry descended on the town, bringing with it a host of well-known guests for Glen Tavern, from John Barrymore to Rin Tin Tin.

Psychics say the most intriguing guests were the ghosts--as many as nine--who haunted the rambling hotel. One purportedly looked like Buffalo Bill, and another resembled a long-dead perfume saleswoman named Ellen and left a floral scent.

The inn has also been a speak-easy and a boarding house. In recent times, it returned to its function as a hotel, bar and restaurant. Since 1983, it has been owned by Mel Cummings of Oxnard.


Cummings, who said he lost a lot of money on the business because he lacked hotel experience, last year considered offers to turn the facility into a health spa or a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation facility similar to the Betty Ford Clinic.

Approached in November

He said the Japanese school approached him in November.

Arimitsu, who plans to relocate from Valencia to Santa Paula when the school opens, said the Glen Tavern provides an ideal location for Japanese students to learn about the United States.

“The students will be able to get around and they’re not in a real urban area, yet it’s close enough to Los Angeles that we can have excursions,” she said.

In addition, the Glen Tavern provides an atmosphere conducive to learning.

“It’s far from the stereotypical cement cinder-block room you think of when you think of a dorm,” Arimitsu said.