Marshall Tavern sells to Fairfax developer


The Marshall Tavern, an 1873 building that has over time served as a soda shop, a hardware store and a bar, was sold last week for $435,000. The derelict building has sat empty for almost three decades and has been on and off the market for years. Its new owner, Fairfax resident Gary Dowd, who has experience restoring historic buildings in Marin, said he plans to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast.

“I’ve driven by the tavern many times and always wonder why no one has done anything with it,” said Mr. Dowd, who works for a Pleasant Hill real estate consulting company and is partnering on the construction aspect of the project with Gerry Hardiman, of Hardiman Construction in Larkspur. “We’re very excited to turn this eyesore into something that everyone is proud of.” 

The tavern’s previous owners, Daniel Altman and Avi Atid, purchased the property for $512,000 in 2004, with plans to turn it into a five-unit bed-and-breakfast. Yet securing a coastal permit for the renovation proved an arduous process. In 2012, the California Coastal Commission granted a permit—but with several conditions, including that the owners build a public pier. “I love to do this, but it requires all my attention and I’m at the age of retirement,” Mr. Altman told the Light last year. 

Mr. Dowd has the same vision for the tavern as a bed-and-breakfast, though he said he “would probably make use of Airbnb.” He may also consider devoting one of the units to public use, but said he didn’t “want to recreate the wheel. I just want to move things forward.” 

The tavern’s coastal permit, valid through December, allows the conversion of the structure into a 5,880 square-foot, five-unit bed-and-breakfast or short-term vacation rental and the reconstruction of an eight-space gravel parking lot to the south. The approved plans, which would need county re-approval, outline a partial demolition, expansions and repairs, the installation of skylights and solar panels as well as the clean-up and maintenance of the site. They also require a bat survey prior to construction, the removal of invasive plant species and the restoration of the dilapidated pier for use by the public—a measure that reflects the Coastal Act’s commitment to public access. 

Though the previous owners extended the coastal permit, the county design review, use and tidelands permits expired. “Technically, it will be the same process of applying for permits this time around,” Jeremy Tejirian, a county planner, said. “Though, since the plans have already been reviewed for completeness, the new owners will not be starting from square one.”