Downtown Santa Barbara’s Rite Aid Closes Down

State Street Location up for Lease for First Time in 20 years

Credit: Courtesy

Downtown Santa Barbara’s Rite Aid drugstore and pharmacy closed its doors on February 28, bringing an end to decades-long traditions of triple scoops of ice cream on a cone for what was once a nickel a scoop. The store was among 63 closures announced by the corporation in its December earnings report, said Terri Hickey, spokesperson for Rite Aid. The downtown location is the only Rite Aid in the county that will close, she said.

The location on State Street is up for lease for the first time in 20 years, according to the Lockehouse Retail Group, which is searching for a new tenant for the 7,000-to-14,000-square-foot space. It went vacant somewhat unexpectedly, said Justin Romain of Lockehouse, and the group is actively pursuing local and chain retailers in their search for a tenant that will be a happy fit for the family that owns the property and for the downtown area.

The store had been a mediocre, low-volume performer for the company, Romain said, and was a victim of COVID’s acceleration of closures for any business on the edge. But, the area has recently seen the failed Anchor Blue storefront across the street newly refurbished for ground-floor tenant LogicMonitor among the series of businesses in the multi-story El Paseo Building. The space next door, which was briefly a holiday arts popup, was vacated by Sur La Table in 2020.

On the city’s main shopping promenade and surrounded on three sides by a depleted Paseo Nuevo mall, Rite Aid’s downtown location has long been a gathering spot for travelers and panhandlers. It was also well-known to law enforcement for petty thefts and other incidents, racking up 98 calls for a police response to disturbances, petty thefts, urinating in public, and other issues. Comparatively, the CVS drugstore up on the 1100 block had 66 such calls that year, a consistent difference in a spot check of police call records back to 2019.

Rite Aid’s third-quarter report stated 2 percent of its stores were to close due to factors such as performance, local business conditions, lease considerations, and the corporation’s business strategy going forward. The company posted a net loss of $361 million from continuing operations, but overall earnings — known as EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization — were $154 million in the black for continuing operations.

The store downtown in Santa Barbara forwarded all its pharmacy patients to the CVS on West Carrillo Street, the closest prescription-filler to Rite Aid’s 825 State Street location. A pharmacist there said they’d been serving a steady trickle of Rite Aid customers since the store closed.


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