ANALYSIS: State Street Riding Up and Down Uncertain Waves

After decades on State Street, exotic clothing and accessories retailer Tienda Ho is closing.


That’s a theme for Santa Barbara: go and flow even more than usual up and down on State Street. 

The latest uncertainty come from the cancellation of the 14 cruise ship visits scheduled for this year. That decision was made this week by the city’s waterfront officials because of the rise in covid-19 cases in the county. 

Cruise ship visits are set to resume in March, but that means South Coast businesses won’t see any revenue this year from ship visitors, who usually spend about $200 a day. 

However, on a brighter note some public outdoor events are returning to downtown this month, such as 1st Thursday, which drew throngs to listen to music in front of the Granada Theater and another band in front of the Core Power yoga studio nearby. Art galleries were back open for the Thursday event. 

However, many restaurants and bars are having trouble find enough staff to operate at the level they were at pre-pandemic. That may change soon. Unemployment benefits are running out.

And, some longtime retail outlets are leaving the commercial corridor, such as Tienda Ho, an exotic women’s clothing store.

Meanwhile, the beachfront State Street Hotel Californian reportedly has been sold to the Foley Entertainment group while the Hotel Santa Barbara at Canon Perdido and State streets is up for sale. 

Two other hotels are planned to open on State Street next year. However, not much new housing in the corridor is set in stone anytime soon. Several pop-up businesses and art galleries are taking up vacant storefront spaces. 

And, the Santa Barbara City Council has named a 15-member committee to see what can be done to remedy State Street issues. Members include Santa Barbara Downtown BID chief Robin Elander, South Coast Chamber of Commerce leader Kristen Miller and Community Environmental Council board member Nadra Ehrman along with some city staff members. 

Speaking of city staff, with the departure of chief administrator Paul Casey this month, his top assistant, Nina Johnson, has eyes on being elected to Councilmember Meagan Harmon’s downtown district seat in the November election. If elected, Johnson must leave her municipal staff position. 

And, incumbent Mayor Cathy Murillo is running for re-election against a field of contenders including former state Senate aide James Joyce III and Voice Magazine publisher Mark Whitehurst. 

Full disclosure: The writer of this blog applied to be on the State Street Committee and was not appointed. 

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