The Hotel del Coronado from the beach. Photo courtesy of the hotel

Well, well, well. I have decided to resurrect my popular weekly business column after a long break from the action. And let me say, what a difference a few years makes. The world has been turned upside down, with much of the credit going to the Covid-19 global pandemic. So, let’s get right to it. San Diego’s 132-year-old landmark Hotel Del Coronado announces plans to reopen on a limited basis June 26 after a three-month temporary closure to help half the spread of the virus. The hotel said at its website that some of the amenities, such as the main pool and cabana guestrooms, currently undergoing renovation, won’t open till July 26.

That’s the good news. Now for a bit of the bad. Numerous restaurants and retailers have been forced to close in the wake of the shutdown ordered by Sacramento authorities. Unfortunately, they won’t be returning for business. Last month, for example, the New York-based owners of Garden Fresh Restaurants, operator of the long-cherished Souplantation and Sweet Potatoes outlets here, announced that they would file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and permanently shutter 97 outlets due to the impact of the virus. The company said it plans an auction all of its equipment June 30. That will mark the end of an era that started with a single outlet in Grantville in 1978.

The chain joins a few national and regional buffet style operators that have either closed or filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy (not necessarily closing but operating under court order till debt loads can be paid or discharged). The temporary shutdown is not just affecting large chains like Souplantation. Family-owned independents are hurting, too. For example, Mother’s Saloon in Ocean Beach has called it quits, as has Troy’s Family Restaurant in Clairemont. Just two of many.

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There could be some help on the way for those businesses still hanging on. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has announced plans to help independent retailers make up for sales lost due to the impact of the closures. He proposes to waive fees and fast-track the permitting necessary to allow businesses to expand into parking lots, sidewalks and where street parking now exists.

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Meanwhile, San Diego County health department announced the go-ahead for reopening of businesses such as nail salons, skincare and waxing salons, and tattoo and massage parlors on June 19. But that decision could be reversed now that seven new community outbreaks of the virus were discovered late last week throughout the county.

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To be sure, there is some good news to balance out the bad and the ugly. Statewide electricity provider Calpine Corp., parent of locally based Calpine Energy Solutions, gives $120,000 to food bank Feeding San Diego in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The cash donation is a big slice of $500,000 that Calpine has given to foodbanks to help feed the hungry. Feeding San Diego said that it will use the donation to help expand services as it struggles to help as many as one-sixth of the population that is good deprived due to the shock of massive layoffs.

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Commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield announced last week that it has brokered the $3.2 million sale of a 3,000-plus square foot office and retail building in Rancho Santa Fe. Chicago’s giant commercial restate concern Millennium Trust Co. was the seller. The buyer was not disclosed.

The pool area at Jefferson Pacific Beach

You may have wondered about that new apartment structure under construction for the past year or so along Interstate 5 and San Diego Bay in Pacific Beach. Well, the owner of Jefferson Pacific Beach has launched the leasing process for the 172-units now available now that construction is completed. Monthly rental rates start in the low $2,000s.

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Medical tourism was a thriving sector before the coronavirus shutdown in early March, a phenomenon benefitting the economy on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border. It appears that things are on the mend as we slowly return to normal. Medical tourism agency Dental Departures checks in to report that it is seeing what it calls a “significant uptick” in patient inquiries and bookings in Tijuana, as well as other border towns along the border on the other side of San Diego County. The Seattle-based agency said bookings are up 60% in recent weeks, and increasing.

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Finally, this quote of the week comes to us from Andrew Bowen, reporter at KPBS. When Bowen asks Angela Landsberg, executive director of North Park Main Street about what happens to parking with the city’s plans to expedite the issuing of outdoor dining permits. Her response? “We’re not going to have a parking issue if we don’t have businesses.” Let’s hope the recovery of the economy continues. Till next week!

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to tom.york@gmail.com.

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