Santa Cruz County moves to the Orange Tier.

The Travel Forecast

February 4, 2021

COVID Update: Local Restaurants

With Governor Newsom lifting the regional stay-at-home order a little over a week ago in response to improving coronavirus conditions and Santa Cruz County beginning COVID-19 vaccinations along with the rest of the state, what does that mean for local restaurants – one of the hardest-hit sectors of the tourism and hospitality industry? VSCC checked in on a few eatery owners to find out what the reversal of the order means for their businesses.

VSCC is promoting restaurants with outdoor dining options such as patios, decks, and parklets. Additionally, local places to eat have turned to creative methods of operations to keep their doors open and their staff employed such as curbside or drive-through service. Drive-thru service for takeout food is now available at the Jack O’Neill Restaurant at the Santa Cruz Dream Inn. Customers can order food online or by phone, and pick up meals in front of the hotel without getting out of their car. Drive-thru service is available from 7AM – 12Noon and 4:30PM – 9:30PM Wed-Sun. Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room is offering its entire menu to go, including signature tiki drinks. The MacKenzie Bar & Grill features meals-to-go seven days a week. Latin dinner night is Thursday and meatloaf is on the menu on Friday, with each dinner order serving two to three people.

“We are excited to resume outdoor operations. The lifting of the order has come just in the nick of time for us. In concern for the financial health of our business we have streamlined our service from full service to counters service,” said Sean Venus, who debuted Venus Spirits Cocktails and Kitchen in 2020. “In addition, we have changed our hours to take advantage of daylight. I think if the weather stays mild, we will have a steady stream of guests wanting to enjoy our cocktails and food.”

Late Monday, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) expressed support for a reported $25 billion restaurant relief package introduced as part of a proposed budget resolution by House and Senate leaders. Although it falls short of the $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund for which the IRC has lobbied since April. The proposed fund would support restaurants with grant funding rather than loans. That fund was part of the Restaurants Act, which died after passing the House in October as part of the $2.2 trillion aid bill known as the HEROES Act. 

Welcome New VSCC Board Members

Visit Santa Cruz County (VSCC) announces the election of new members to the Board of Directors. Each member will sit on the 25-member Board for two-year terms. New Board members are Sonja Brunner and Martine Watkins. Find out more about these members of our community.

Sonja Brunner, Vice Mayor, City of Santa Cruz
Berkeley native Sonja Brunner came to Santa Cruz in 1992 where she continued a 25-year career in retail business management with Cat n’ Canary, Sockshop and Shoe Company, and Old School Shoes. Currently, Sonja is the Director of Operations for the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, and a Board Commissioner for the Housing Authority of Santa Cruz County. Sonja also recently stepped into her role as Vice Mayor for the City of Santa Cruz. She was appointed to the city’s Ad hoc Revenue Committee, the Homelessness Two-by-Two Committee, and is an alternate board member for the Santa Cruz Public Library Financing Authority, the Central Coast Community Energy Policy Board, and the Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council. In her free time, Sonja deejays for special events in and around Santa Cruz County. In the past, Sonja has served on the Board of Directors for the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, City Arts Master Plan Steering Committee, the Downtown Santa Cruz Improvement Task Force, the Santa Cruz County Chamber Women In Business Steering Committee, the Cruzin’ Courses Committee, and the Visit Santa Cruz Board in 2006-2008.  

Martine Watkins, City Councilmember, City of Santa Cruz
Martine Watkins is currently a Councilmember and former Mayor of the City of Santa Cruz. Martine earned her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from CSU Monterey Bay and the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute of Public Policy and has dedicated her career to public service. She has served as a Senior Community Organizer at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education for nearly 15 years and has overseen several youth and family support service programs ranging from cradle to career. She is a strong advocate for climate adaptation, champions the Health in All Policies initiative to improve the health of the Santa Cruz community, and has organized the Tobacco Use Prevention and Education Program in Santa Cruz County school districts. Martine is committed to the health of all of Santa Cruz County and our environment. In 2019, Martine was named Woman of the Year by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.

VSCC board members determine policies that govern the agency, review and approve VSCC’s annual work plan and serve on committees that directly support tourism promotion for the County. The board also oversees the Tourism Marketing District budget and program of work.   

VSCC Concludes Three-Day Virtual Media Event

As virtual meetings and conferences become the norm, VSCC’s Communications Director Christina Glynn attended International Media Marketplace, (IMM) hosted by TravMedia and sponsored in part by Visit California January 27th – 29th. Planning for this multi-day event began in late 2020 leading up to the debut of one-on-one appointments with travel editors, freelancer writers, and other journalists from around the United States and abroad. Normally held at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center during the New York Times Travel Show and a key component of  Visit California’s annual New York Media Mission, TravMedia accommodated the shift to an online format this year.

Thirty-seven destinations from throughout California participated in a series of appointments, virtual networking opportunities, and presentations from sponsors, including Caroline Beteta, President of Visit California who kicked off the event with a discussion about the status of tourism in the state. Over the course of three days, twenty-four one-on-one appointments were hosted by VSCC in which destination information and partner news were shared with editors, and freelance and staff writers who gathered to learn about Santa Cruz County’s lodging, restaurants, attractions, outdoor activities, wineries, and the integral part the destination plays in the iconic Highway 1 road trip – a consistently popular theme among travel media. 

Partnering with Visit California-sponsored media events provides VSCC with a cost-effective way to stretch its public relations budget to reach major metropolitan-area consumer, lifestyle, and travel media outlets. Increasing visitor awareness of Santa Cruz County through media exposure results in increased revenues to the county in the long-term. Separate from IMM, VSCC’s media relations program is a year-round staple of communications and promotional efforts. Proactive pitching takes place regularly.  Are you a VSCC partner with news about your hotel, restaurant, business, or attraction you’d like to share with us? Use this online form to submit information which we will use for press and social media efforts! Questions? Email VSCC.

ERC County Blueprint Status Report

The weekly County Blueprint Status Report related to COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County is available for the week of February 2, 2021, in English and Spanish. These updates are provided by the Economic Recovery Council of Santa Cruz County (ERC). Information from the ERC aligns with state and county health officials, Governor Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, and SAVE Lives Santa Cruz County.   

Staycation Hotel Offers Wanted

Is your hotel, motel, vacation rental, or bed and breakfast inn offering staycation offers or packages for locals? Santa Cruz County residents who may want a break from sheltering-in-place can benefit from a getaway in their own town. If your property is opening its doors to locals with packages or specials, let us know about it to be featured on VSCC’s social media channels!

Clean + Safe Kudos!

Congratulations to the Santa Cruz Dream Inn and to the Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains which received Clean + Safe certification from the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CHLA). As a reminder: all lodging properties are members of CHLA and have the capacity to become certified as a benefit of their membership. Find out how your property can become Clean + Safe certified here!   

Partner News

Congratulations to VSCC Board Member and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson who has been named chairman of the County Board of Supervisors! He will serve a one-year term. Representing the Fifth Supervisorial District, Bruce will preside over a Board that will meet virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Residents may participate in Board meetings, including offering public comments, via phone or Zoom.

Did you know……

that Cabrillo College is seeking employers to participate in virtual career fairs taking place in April? Four different virtual career fairs will be offered, each with their own Career and Academic Pathways (CAP) focus. Employers can participate in as many of the career fairs that match their hiring needs. The lineup is as follows: April 8 – Career Fair for Global & Human Studies; April 15 – Career Fair for Entrepreneur & Business CAP & Creative Arts CAP; April 22 – Career Fair for Health & Public Safety; April 29 – Career Fair for STEM CAP. Click here for more information and to register

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