Social Distancing Sanctuaries: Some La Jolla hotels offer haven of hospitality, others temporarily close

During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, some La Jolla hotels remain open with reduced amenities, while others have temporarily closed. Pictured from left: La Jolla Cove Suites, La Valencia Hotel and The Lodge at Torrey Pines.
(La Jolla Light File Photos)

As residents of La Jolla shelter in place, some La Jolla shelters have temporarily shuttered as well. The Light caught up with five hotels to learn their plans during the coronavirus crisis, and when they hope to resume business as usual.

Atop the Torrey Pines State Beach, The Lodge at Torrey Pines remains open, still offering its guests “luxury services that people may not have,” said general manager Bill Gross. The Lodge’s spa, fitness center and gift shop are closed per official mandates, but the resort is “fully prepared to give the same five-diamond service as always,” Gross said.

The resort’s restaurant, The Grill, is closed except for takeout orders and there is room service for hotel guests. Gross noted: “Many of the guests are locals, who just want to get out of the house and have a little different environment, maybe not have to worry about doing dishes or laundry.”

Gross further shared that The Lodge has implemented “some special programs for people with a high degree of need, like people from UCSD and Scripps, during the quarantines. We are using the staff we have to make people feel as though they’re wonderfully taken care of. It’s a very tranquil environment.”

At the tip of the Shores neighborhood, it’s almost business-as-usual for Hotel La Jolla. General manager Michael Murrell said the high-rise is operating normally, although its Cusp restaurant is “regretfully closed.” Hotel guests are directed to get their meals from one of the other eateries in town.

Murrell also indicated Hotel La Jolla has reached out to California Hotel & Lodging Association and its parent corporation, Hilton, to make itself available for first-responders and other emergency workers as needed.

In the Village and Beach Tract, those looking for accommodations will find them at the Empress Hotel and Shoal La Jolla Beach. Karen Finerman, marketing director for both hotels, explained the inns are “both open for essential travelers, those who are in transition and need accommodations during this time.” She assured that each is “taking extra measures for the safety of our guests and team members.”

“Both the Empress and Shoal reached out to local community groups — police officers, fire fighters, City and hospital workers — with special offers for deeply discounted rates for hotel stays she said. “Some have medically challenged people in their families, immuno-compromised or elderly, and we can give them extra space and the ability to distance.”

Additionally, the Empress and Shoal are “home” to several guests who take advantage of the hotels’ Day Use rates to work from home, “using dedicated space, WiFi, and a fridge in the room,” Finerman shared. “These are stressful times, and we provide a space to relax and recharge.” Hungry guests, however, will need to source their meals from one of the many eateries offering takeout; the hotel closed its restaurant until conditions improve.

As both hotels would normally be busy with spring break travelers, Finerman said the properties are instead turning to community assistance, “donating toilet paper and other supplies not being currently used to food banks and other organizations.”

On Prospect Street, two La Jolla hospitality staples — Grande Colonial and La Valencia — have decided to close their doors during the crisis. The Grande Colonial shuttered March 23, and general manager Terry Underwood said he wasn’t sure when it will reopen.

“I don’t think any of us really know when stay-at-home orders will be lifted,” he explained. However, the hotel is taking reservations as of May 1, and Underwood promised the hotel will be back up and running “as soon as it looks like we can go outside.”

In the meantime, Underwood said Grande Colonial has “let the California Hotel & Lodging Association know we are open for first-responder needs.”

La Valencia closed March 27 with a message left on its website that operations are “temporarily suspended for the safety of its guests, employees, and local community.” However, the hotel is also available for emergency need.

“We’ve put ourselves out there on a variety of different government information sites,” said general manager Summer Shoemaker. “At this point, we haven’t been approached with government requests for housing anybody,” she continued, “but we are open to the opportunity. We’re part of the community and here to help as necessary.”

La Valencia is taking reservations for May, with Shoemaker noting “we continue to work with our customers in moving their reservations to more appropriate times for travel.”