Luis Garcia, left, and Kacey House know how to keep things safe and clean. (Kate Winter, courtesy Visit Santa Barbara)

Out of a competitive pool of nominations from throughout Santa Barbara’s South Coast, two employees from Acme Hospitality, Kacey House and Luis Garcia, have tied to win Visit Santa Barbara Hospitality Heroes Awards in the first week of the five-week program. Each will receive a certificate of recognition, a $100 gift card and a chance to win a grand prize staycation package in Santa Barbara.

The weekly Visit Santa Barbara Hospitality Heroes Awards program recognizes local hospitality industry workers for their vital role in helping communicate and carry out standards that protect the health and safety of the community, its workforce and visitors. The program runs for five weeks this summer, with winners chosen each week through Aug. 10.

As the general manager for Acme Hospitality restaurants, including The Lark, Lucky Penny, Santa Barbara Wine Collective, Pearl Social and Helena Avenue Bakery, House has balanced “vigilance towards safety standards while still delivering uncompromised hospitality to our guests and a deeper commitment of connection towards one another on our team,” according to her nomination.

House developed a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols and trained staff for weeks to ensure proper implementation and rigorous adherence, from controlled outdoor seating and designated waiting-area systems to additional handwashing stations, employee temperature checks, and hospitable, playful, brand-specific signage.

House also has overseen a full-time sanitation captain and developed standard operating procedures and trainings on R-Zero, a new ultraviolet sanitation technology, which Acme is beta testing in its facilities. The innovative technology previously has been available only to hospitals and surgical suites.

In a sweet twist, House simultaneously nominated Luis Garcia, Acme Hospitality sanitation captain for the award.

“Luis is tirelessly keeping our employees safe. He comes in each day positive and dedicated to doing his best,” House wrote.

Proudly sporting his own uniform so he is easily identified around the restaurants, Garcia’s mission each shift is to ensure guests and employees alike have a clean environment — from door handles to restrooms — and trust they are coming back to a safe place.

“We are proud to recognize Kacey and Luis as our first Hospitality Heroes and are deeply grateful for their service and commitment to keep everyone safe in our community,” said Kathy Janega-Dykes, CEO/president of Visit Santa Barbara.

“In a time when COVID-19 has created so many challenges, they are stand-outs among the many local workers who have been graciously stepping up their efforts, from frontline staff to those behind the scenes,” Janega-Dykes said.

In particular, Visit Santa Barbara judges cited House’s thoroughness in overseeing the detailed protocols, ongoing training and relentless coordination necessary to protect guests, as well as the innovations in sanitation technology, signage and spacing arrangements put in place at Acme, along with Garcia’s team spirit and dedication to safety.

Visit Santa Barbara is continuing to accept public nominations for Hospitality Heroes who have supported healthy and safe behaviors related to COVID-19, whether among their customers or co-workers. To submit nominations and for more information, visit

Nominations are due by noon on Mondays, July 20, July 27, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10. Previously submitted nominations will be considered in all of the subsequent weeks of judging.

Each week, Visit Santa Barbara will select one Hospitality Hero to receive a $100 gift card and a certificate of recognition. In addition, at the end of the program period, from the pool of Hospitality Heroes, Visit Santa Barbara will select one grand prize winner to receive a Santa Barbara South Coast Staycation Package for two, including a local hotel stay and activities.

Visit Santa Barbara is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) jointly funded by the city of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, South Coast Tourism Business Improvement District, and a membership of hospitality busi­nesses. Its mission is to inspire overnight travel to the Santa Barbara South Coast to enhance the community’s economy and quality of life.

According to Destination Analysts, a tourism market research firm, in a typical year, annual spending by travelers to the South Coast totals more than $1.9 billion, supporting more than 13,000 jobs and generating more than $56 million in yearly tax revenue.

The coronavirus has severely impacted South Coast hospitality businesses and attractions, resulting in layoffs, furloughs and massive financial losses, as well as permanent business closures.