150-Year-Old Upham Hotel Open During Pandemic

Santa Barbara’s Downtown Hospitality Institution Serving Guests on Verge of Epic Anniversary

Diana Wickline of Upham Hotel | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Santa Barbara’s hotel industry is being hammered by the COVID-19 shutdown. According to Visit Santa Barbara, 20 percent of South Coast properties (about 15 hotels) are temporarily shuttered, and the ones that remain open are reporting an 82 percent decrease in demand and 54 percent decline in daily rates.

One of the properties that remains open is the Upham Hotel (1404 De la Vina St.; [805] 962-0058; uphamhotel.com), which will turn 150 years old in 2021. That makes it the longest continually operating hotel in Southern California, according to the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Diana Wickline. They weren’t about to let the pandemic kill that streak.


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“We want our community to know we are here for them,” explained Wickline. “Hotels are considered an essential business during this time — people needing to travel to take care of loved ones, health-care workers needing a safe place to stay.”

Photo: Daniel DreifussThe lobby of the Upham Hotel

So far, there have been a couple of guests who decided to make The Upham their home base during the shutdown, said general manager Denise Spain. “We are certainly not the bustling hotel that we are used to being, but we are seeing other guests choosing to stay with us throughout the week,” said Spain. “We offer a safe home away from home, and a relaxing, stress-free environment.”

The hotel’s onsite restaurant, Louie’s California Bistro, is closed. Instead, guests are doing curbside pickup and delivery via Grubhub and Restaurant Connection from the nearby Public Market, as well as Uncorked and Bossie’s. The typical safety protocols are in place, as well, with employees and guests wearing masks, gloves, and maintaining the social distance protocol.

The hotel did furlough a number of employees. “But we are bringing them back slowly to prepare for what we hope will be a busy summer season,” said Spain, who hopes to have the whole team back together when this is over.

There is already some hope for the future, as reservations for rooms and events are happening. “We have helped several wedding couples postpone their weddings to new dates so they may continue to look forward to their special day and make it a stress-free process,” said Wickline. She’s also helping reschedule annual meetings and corporate events, though is sad about the graduations and other seasonal events that probably won’t happen.

She has advice for other hotels persevering in this time. “To not lose hope,” said Wickline. “The Santa Barbara hospitality community has never been competitive with each other. We have always worked together to ensure that all visitors have the perfect, memorable experience…. The most important thing is to stay positive and to know that we will come out of this stronger and wiser.” 

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