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San Diego's hospitality industry suffers from Comic-Con@Home

Comic-Con @ Home - Virtual Panel.png
Posted at 6:08 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 21:15:13-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- One of San Diego's biggest events of the year is here! Well, sort of. This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, Comic-Con is not at the San Diego Convention Center. It is only happening virtually.

Because of that, San Diego's hospitality industry is suffering a considerable loss.

The 51st Comic-Con International is called Comic-Con @Home. This means, there are no crowds, cos-players, or lines around San Diego's Gaslamp District. The good part is that all panels are free for attendees. The bad part?

"We're losing 100% of the Comic-Con business," Daniel Drane, owner of The Field Irish Pub, said.

For the last 22 years, Drayne has operated the establishment on 5th Avenue, a street usually packed with visitors during the pop entertainment convention. He says every year, regulars from around the world have drinks and hold meet-ups at his bar. Not this year.

"We're not just losing business, but there's a loss of some of the people that we've actually known for years," Drayne said.

Comic-Con's COVID-shutdown does not just impact Downtown San Diego. Its effects trickle down to the rest of the city and the county.

In one week, 'the Con' usually drives in $150 million to the region and fills up almost all of the county's 64,000 hotel rooms. But now those numbers are a thing of the past.

"Our current strategy is a strategy of survival," Robert Rauch, CEO of RAR Hospitality, said.

The hotelier says San Diego County's annual average hotel occupancy is 77%. July is singlehandedly the best month of the year, at 90%. But with COVID-19 this year, it is barely at 40%.

"It's deplorable to go from the best month of the year, to if it weren't for the PPP loans, we'd all be losing money this month," Rauch said.

With cancellations, no business, or group travel, Rauch says San Diego's lodging industry is solely surviving on stay-cationers and a handful of leisure travelers.

But as the Fighting Irish say,

"You can't throw in the towel. You gotta fight back," Drayne said.

Drayne is continuing his sidewalk cafe and curbside dining to make it through the dismal numbers.

"I hope that this COVID goes away and never returns," Drayne chuckled. "Things are going well before all of this, and I'd like to get back there again."