Del Mar bomb threat causes economic hit


By Claire Harlin

Staff Writer

Local business owners learned the hard way on Friday, Sept. 2, that in the case of a bomb threat the whole community might take an economic hit.

With concern heightened and streets blocked off for almost five hours after L’Auberge resort received a bomb threat around 4 p.m., Camino del Mar —usually hopping on a Friday night — didn’t see its usual dinner rush. Many businesses reported bringing in only a quarter of their usual revenue.

“It was Labor Day Weekend so I would have done a lot more business if the town hadn’t been shut down,” said Randy Gruber, owner of Americana Restaurant, located at 1454 Camino Del Mar. “There was also an announcement made at the racetrack. I’m not sure the verbiage, but it said there was a problem in Del Mar and traffic was cut off. That doesn’t entice people to come to Del Mar to shop or eat.”

Gruber said the restaurant’s revenue for the night was 70 to 80 percent less than usual. Many area businesses closed because there weren’t any customers and many employees weren’t able to get to work, Gruber said.

Gruber said he rushed to the restaurant when he found out about the threat, and when he got there around 6 p.m. he asked a Sheriff’s official if it was safe to be at the restaurant.

“He said it seemed to be safe and the streets would be open right after they were done searching,” he said. “That was at 6 p.m. Had they opened at 6:30 p.m. it would have made a huge difference because that’s prime dining time. But it wasn’t until after 8:30 that they opened the streets.”

Gruber said the economic impact was huge.

“I would say this town lost a couple hundred thousand dollars collectively,” he said.

Michael Conolly, manager of Sbicca, said Sheriff’s authorities asked him to shut down the restaurant’s patio during the ordeal. He reported a revenue loss of 75 percent, however he said a few evacuees from L’Auberge, still wearing their robes, made themselves at home at the bar.

“It was dead in town,” said Lana Blackwell, co-owner of Crepes & Corks, a restaurant and wine bar located at 1328 Camino del Mar. “There was no one on the streets except for a few people in their robes because they didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Blackwell said guests weren’t able to arrive for their reservations, and the restaurant made less than 25 percent of what it usually brings in on a Friday night.

Del Mar Pizza, located at 211 15th St., was not only stuck with pizzas that customers couldn’t come pick up, but drivers couldn’t get out of the area to make deliveries. Manager Victor Axelsson said the shop’s revenue dropped by about 60 percent.

Walter Scott, manager of Il Fornaio, located in Del Mar Plaza, said the Italian restaurant and bakery lost at least 80 percent of business due to the bomb threat. Scott said authorities closed all access to parking at the plaza, which houses several other restaurants, including Del Mar Rendezvoux, Flavor Del Mar and Pacifica Del Mar.

He also said Sheriff’s officials instructed restaurants to close all outside patios.

“That’s pretty much half of our restaurant,” Scott said, adding that the loss of business meant a loss of tips for restaurant service staff.

“I don’t know what happened with the bomb scare, but it was something that heavily affected businesses,” he said. “Unfortunately, in this economy, we could have used that business.”