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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 6:06 pm | Fog/Mist 58º


Letter to the Editor: Hospitality Santa Barbara Responds to Thomas Fire

To The Santa Barbara Community,

Enduring the Thomas Fire has been difficult for our community. This fire, whether through loss, evacuation or smoke, has affected us all.

I must thank, over and over, our first responders, who have not only protected our neighborhoods, but have also seemingly become a part of our families. Their work continues to be heroic and inspiring.

Additionally, thanks to Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas. We have pulled together to support each other in ways that many others wouldn’t. I am grateful to live in a place with such a strong sense of community.

It is this community spirit that inspires this letter. As president of Hospitality Santa Barbara, I am hearing firsthand how the Thomas Fire is affecting local retail, restaurant and hotel operations.

As many of you know, this time of year is crucial to our local economy. Typically, the December holiday season is one of the busiest times of year. The Thomas Fire has changed that. The families and visitors who would typically fill our local establishments are staying inside or staying away.

I am asking you to please support our local businesses now, if you can. Instead of finishing your shopping online, visit a local store. Instead of eating in, frequent one of our local restaurants. If you or your family can’t be in your home, please look to one of our local hotels to create new holiday memories. The owners and operators of these establishments are here to provide a place of community, a place to gather, and a place to find some normalcy in a challenging time.

It’s not just the owners of these businesses who need our help. These businesses are open, for you and for their employees. That sweater you buy could help with a local employee’s commission — so they can buy a little something extra for their family. That tip you leave after a meal or drink helps the server enjoy the holidays a little more with their family, or simply pay rent or a mortgage.

Supporting our community can be done in many ways. Just as you have already been doing, you can make a difference in your neighbors’ lives by frequenting local businesses.

To give you some firsthand examples of how this fire is affecting local business, I reached out to some of our hospitality community:

Paul Bullock, owner of The Eagle Inn, has packed up his own house, and is ready to evacuate. But, despite that, he continues to operate The Eagle Inn for guests and for his employees. He notes that The Eagle Inn is open, but quiet.

Many of “the reservations have been canceled for the next two weeks, and the number of evacuees coming in has been low. Unless our holiday business turns around, this is going to be a lean season for all of my staff. Any locals who are displaced are welcome to stay here. We’re offering a rate of $99 so they can worry a little less during the holidays.”

I think he echoes what we are all thinking when he says “let’s get rid of this fire soon!”

Sherry Villanueva, president of Acme Hospitality (The Lark, Loquita, Les Marchands), has been evacuated from her home. Despite this, she wants you to know that “community is at the center of all that we do at Acme. We feel a responsibility to our neighbors to provide a safe place to gather and share meals and stories with one another. We want to be there in both happy and difficult times. We also feel a responsibility to our team, many of whom depend on their work in our restaurants to support their families. We decided to open for business this week to support both of these objectives.”

She said the response has been exciting to see.

“It’s been inspiring to see our employees at Lucky Penny, The Lark, Les Marchands, Santa Barbara Wine Collective, Helena Avenue Bakery and Loquita excited to come to work to support our beloved community of Santa Barbara.”

Similarly, Katie Grassini, of Grassini Family Vineyards, says that “our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by this truly terrible fire. Santa Barbara is an incredible community, and now, more than ever, we need to come together to support one another. Whether it’s grabbing a bite to eat at a local restaurant with a loved one and venting about what we’re all going though, or trying to get into the holiday spirit by shopping at a locally owned store — every little bit helps! Business owners are doing everything they can to keep their doors open and their employees safe, so instead of online shopping, come downtown!”

Grassini Family Vineyards recently opened a new tasting room and is keeping it open, so people can find a spot to gather, and take a moment do something normal, like have a glass of wine. Grassini says the “new wine tasting room is open, and the air is quite nice indoors — especially with a lovely glass of wine in hand!”

These are just a few examples of hundreds of local businesses that want and need your help. Santa Barbara has done a great job as a community during the Thomas Fire. Let’s continue this by rallying around local business owners and employees. Please, support your friends and neighbors with some local, holiday shopping, eating, and cheer.

Thank you, and I hope that you and your families stay safe and have a wonderful holiday.

Thank you,

Trevor Large
Hospitality Santa Barbara, board president
Partner, Buynak, Fauver, Archbald & Spray LLP

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