People in Your Neighborhood: Meet La Jollan and Empress Hotel general manager Joel Majors

Centrally located just a few blocks from La Jolla’s coastline and in the heart of the shopping and eating hub of The Village, The Empress Hotel sits at 7766 Fay Ave. At the helm for the last two years is UTC resident and general manager Joel Majors, who sat down for this edition of “People in Your Neighborhood.”

Where did you grow up?

I’m from the Midwest, but I consider myself a Californian having lived here most of my life. If you’ve ever been to the Midwest, the winters are so harsh and the summers are hot and humid. That was not for me. The weather here was more friendly. I lived in places like LA before I moved here two years ago. I love it here because it’s beautiful even in the winter, but if you want snow, you can take a short drive and to the mountains.

Do you have family here?

My niece Mamie and her baby, Leilani Grace, live with me and they are the loves of my life.

How did they come to live with you?

I was in living in LA (before this) and Mamie came to visit me there and liked it, so when I moved here, she wanted to come, too. At that time, I was deciding on a house and got one big enough for the three of us, so she could live here.

Were you always in the hotel industry?

Yes, I always knew hospitality was the industry for me. From the time I graduated high school, it was what I wanted to do. I started at the first hotel being a driver and bellman, and I worked my way up to the front desk, then front desk supervisor and now general manger. It’s taken me what feels like a lifetime to get to where I am now.

What do you like about your job?

In the hotel industry, every day is different and I like this about the job. Any given day, I’ll be in the hotel lobby, garden patio or at the front desk reception … our clients come from places around the world and it’s fun to meet them and find out what brought them to La Jolla. Because of this, the associates (at the hotel) nicknamed me the Lobby Lizard.

What do you do for fun?

I love to cook with my family. My niece likes to cook, so she’ll make something every once in a while. But when it’s my turn in the kitchen, I like to make pastas and bake a chicken. Basic easy stuff, nothing gourmet. I like to sit down with the family and talk about the day. I also like going to the beach. Baby girl loves to go to the beach and play in the sand and get in the water. She can be very mischievous, like most two-year-olds.

I really enjoy going to musicals, from “Phantom of the Opera” to “The Book of Mormon.” I’ve seen a lot of the classics more than once. “Jersey Boys” is another favorite. I think the original play started at La Jolla Playhouse.

I also like concerts. I saw Cher in LA when I was living there, and I’ve seen Neil Diamond, and Billy Joel when he was performing in San Diego. I enjoy listening to and collecting music from all genres. I have over 1,500 CDs.

Have any celebrities ever stayed or eaten here?

Billy Joel actually ate at The Manhattan Restaurant while he was here a few months back. He was staying elsewhere, but came here for dinner with his friends. The piano player recognized him and he started playing a Billy Joel song. When Billy Joel was done with his dinner, he walked up to the piano player, shook his hands, thanked him and gave him a $100 tip.

What’s the hotel industry doing in light of competition from short-term rentals?

There is not a lot that can be done … but we try to be a step above them and provide the best personalized customer service or offer an amenity. We provide knowledgeable staff that can offer (dining and recreational) recommendations.

What restaurants do you recommend?

In case they don’t want a steak at The Manhattan, I send them to really any restaurant on Prospect Street. I’ve eaten at a lot of places around town, so I can give a personal recommendation (laughs). It depends on what the guest wants. If they want to rent bicycles, we can arrange for that. Sometimes they just want to explore The Cove and we can connect them with (concessionaires) there.

Editor’s Note: The “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on locals we all wish we knew more about! La Jolla Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to or call us at (858) 875-5950.