Horse racing fans headed to Del Mar for Opening Day 2017. This year, none will be in stands. Photo by Chris Stone

The Del Mar racing season begins Friday with horses and riders, a virtual hat contest and nobody in the stands. But organizers have already won as much as $5 million from the government.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club got at least $2 million to keep 322 employees on its payrolls amid the pandemic, according to records released Monday.

The club is one of 52 Del Mar businesses gaining at least $150,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program via the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Another is the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the Del Mar Fairgrounds and said in late May that “without the requested $20 million in relief aid from the State of California to get us back on our feet, the fairgrounds will potentially have to close its doors.”

The 22nd District was awarded $2 million to $5 million under taxpayer-funded PPP to keep 213 employees employed. But on June 18, the agency announced its staff of 157 full-time, year-round employees could be reduced by 58 percent in October.

(Although the governor appoints members of the group’s board, the body gets no state funding.*)

The SBA calls the PPP a $669 billion loan project meant to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll — part of the $2 trillion CARES Act signed into law March 27 by President Trump. About 650,000 businesses received money.

“The loan may be partially or fully forgiven if the business keeps its employee counts and employee wages stable,” the SBA says.

But large firms are eligible, too.

In San Diego County, several major hotel companies were awarded between $5 million and $10 million under PPP — listing the maximum 500 workers per site as beneficiaries even though they are known to employ many more companywide.

Bartell Hotels — whose eight properties include the ritzy Sheraton La Jolla Hotel, Humphreys Half Moon Inn and The Dana On Mission Bay — was one.

Another was Evans Hotels — which says it employs 1,208 at the tony Bahia Resort Hotel, Catamaran Resort Hotel and The Lodge at Torrey Pines. It listed 500 “jobs retained.”

Times of San Diego counted at least 57 San Diego County firms as having been loaned $5 million to $10 million. Nearly 5,000 firms or nonprofits in the city of San Diego effectively won taxpayer grants of more than $150,000 under the PPP.

Well-known names include Rubio’s Restaurants Inc. of Carlsbad, the fish-taco creator that says it has over 4,000 employees and operates nearly 200 restaurants in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.

Others are:

  • Brigantine Inc. of San Diego (500 jobs retained)
  • Claim Jumper Acquisition Co. LLC of San Diego (0 listed)
  • Fish Market Restaurants Inc. of San Diego (500)
  • Islands Restaurants LP of Carlsbad (500)
  • And Urban Plates LLC of Encinitas (204)

Big hotels and restaurant companies were able to take advantage of the small-business program because of a loophole letting companies with multiple locations apply for loans if they maintain employees and payrolls at certain levels.

“That provision was inserted after lobbyists for hotels and restaurants pleaded with lawmakers designing the program, especially Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for special consideration. The carveout allowed hotels and restaurants to apply for the funds regardless of how many workers they had, so long as each location employed fewer than 500,” The Washington Post reported.

San Diego’s largest law firm — Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP — told the government it could keep 258 employees working. It also received between $5 million and $10 million.

At least two nonprofits secured loans in the same range — La Jolla Institute for Immunology (376 jobs retained) and Avid Center (448).

Less well-known San Diego employers loaned as much as $10 million were:

  • Glenn A. Rick Engineering and Development Co. of San Diego (500 jobs retained).
  • Kleinfelder Group Inc. of San Diego (500), an engineering, construction management, design and environmental professional services firm (that) operates over 60 office locations in the United States, Canada and Australia.
  • PKL Services Inc. of Poway (500), a defense contractor that on May 15 was awarded a $1.8 million training contract supporting the Royal Thai Air Force in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Professional Maintenance Systems Inc. of San Diego (500) or PMS, which boasts being “the largest woman-owned janitorial company in Southern California with over 1,200 employees.”
  • And Retail Services WIS Corp. of San Diego (500), which says: “With thousands of employees already online, WIS International has the bandwidth to provide hundreds of market specific personnel to reset entire stores or to assist opening a new store from scratch.”

Two Encinitas firms operating out of 2339 11th St. — Manna Development Group LLC and Manna Colorado LLC — list 500 jobs retained each. They both got loans of at least $5 million.

Other locally based companies being loaned between $5 million and $10 million were:

  • A.O. REED & CO (477) of San Diego.
  • ANESTHESIA SERVICE MEDICAL GROUP INC of San Diego (262)
  • ASC STAFFING GROUP LLC of La Jolla (500)
  • ASSOCIATED MICROBREWERIES LTD of San Diego (0 jobs retained)
  • CALIFORNIA CANCER ASSOCIATES FOR RESEARCH AND EXCELLENCE INC. of San Diego (366)
  • CAR SOUND EXHAUST SYSTEM INC. of Oceanside (250).
  • CERCA TROVA RESTAURANT GROUP HOLDINGS INC. of San Diego (500)
  • COFFMAN SPECIALTIES INC. of San Diego (315)
  • D&K ENGINEERING of San Diego (346)
  • EPSILON SYSTEMS SOLUTIONS INC. of San Diego (500)
  • F&B ASSOCIATES INC. of San Diego (475)
  • FUN EATS AND DRINKS LLC of San Diego (0)
  • HAWTHORNE MACHINERY CO. of San Diego (489)
  • HOSPITALITY TEAM MEMBERS INC. of San Marcos (442)
  • HOST HEALTHCARE INC. of La Jolla (485)
  • INNOVASYSTEMS INTL LLC of San Diego (300)
  • INVIVOSCRIBE INC. of San Diego (177)
  • KINGS & CONVICTS BP LLC of San Diego (500)
  • LETTER RIDE LLC of San Diego (no figure listed)
  • MAD ENGINE LLC of San Diego (244)
  • MERRY X-RAY CHEMICAL CORP. of San Diego (454)
  • MILLENNIUM HEALTH LLC of San Diego (500)
  • MISSION HEALTHCARE SERVICES LLC of San Diego (500)
  • MOBILEONE LLC of La Jolla (500)
  • MOSSY NISSAN INC. of National City (0)
  • NATIONAL FUNDING INC. of San Diego (334)
  • NINYO & MOORE GEOTECHNICAL & ENVIRONMENT of San Diego (no figure listed)
  • PC SPECIALIST INC. of San Diego (246)
  • PREMIER FOOD CONCEPTS LLC of San Diego (500)
  • PRO ENERGY SERVICES GROUP LLC of Ramona (205)
  • REDHORSE CORPORATION of San Diego (250)
  • SEASPINE HOLDINGS CORP. Of Carlsbad (391)
  • SMARTDRIVE SYSTEMS INC. of San Diego (225)
  • SOUTHCOAST WELDING & MANUFACTURING LLC of Chula Vista (500)
  • TAYLOR-LISTUG INC. of El Cajon (454)
  • TECHFLOW INC. of San Diego (320)
  • TRADEMARK CONSTRUCTION CO. INC. of San Diego (448)
  • TWO JINN INC. of Carlsbad (no figure listed)
  • TYSON & MENDES LLP of La Jolla (no figure listed)

However, the SBA said: “PPP loan data reflects the information borrowers provided to their lenders in applying for PPP loans. SBA can make no representations about the accuracy or completeness of any information that borrowers provided to their lenders. Not all borrowers provided all information.”

More than 27,000 city of San Diego individuals and businesses received less than $150,000 each in PPP funds, but that dataset — released after a lawsuit invoking the Freedom of Information Act — didn’t list names.

*An earlier version of this story linked to an incorrect version of the fairgrounds’ LinkedIn page.

Updated at 12:05 p.m. July 7, 2020.

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