small businesses

Nearly 6,000 Escondido Business Licenses Abandoned During the Pandemic

Both new and existing small businesses emerge from the pandemic with hopes for success

NBC Universal, Inc.

You don’t need to look hard to see the cost of covid on Grand Avenue in Escondido. Store owners will tell you there are definitely more empty spaces and more "for lease" signs up than before. NBC 7 Investigates wanted to know -- exactly how many more?

We pulled records from the Escondido City Clerk and found 5,898 business owners did not renew their license between July of 2019 and last month. The number of abandoned licenses increased every year since 2019.

But there is hope. While many businesses did not survive, others are springing up to take their place. More than 1,900 new Escondido businesses filed applications for licenses each of the last two fiscal years. 

“I’m grateful to be open,” Dennis O’Sullivan, the owner of O’Sullivan’s Pub said. “There’s a lot of people that are not.”

It’s a truth O’Sullivan knows personally. He made the difficult decision to close his only other location, in Carlsbad, due to the fiscal punch of shutdown orders. 

“It hurt,” said O’Sullivan. “Make it straight. It hurt. We were open, closed, open, closed, open, closed three times.”

In order to ensure his Escondido pub survived, he moved outside.

“I built that 8 months ago,” said O’Sullivan, showing our crew the patio cover he built over what used to be parking.

Several businesses in Escondido made headlines in December 2020 for defying the shutdown and allowing outdoor dining. O'Sullivan believes had they not done so, they probably wouldn’t have made it.

Other businesses got creative to outlast the pandemic.

“A lot of endorphins are released in this building,” Michael McCormick told us. He's a franchisee for Arthur Murray, a ballroom dance studio in Escondido.

“You get to have a good time all the time,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean times don’t get tough. McCormick and his wife moved to this studio on Grand Ave, just in time for the first shutdown.

“I think the most important thing as things progressed is not to overreact,” recalled McCormick.

The couple took their lessons virtual.

Down the street, another business owner chose to wait it out.

“I believe in my vision,” says Brian LaMere, owner of Good Omen Mead.

He signed his lease in November of 2019, and has been paying $10,000 a month for more than two years, waiting until it’s safe to finally open the door. all three business owners say the pandemic made them stronger, and are excited to get back to full swing.

“I can’t be more proud of the work that my staff has done,” McCormick said. “The work that our company has done.”

“Yes it’s a struggle and yes we're at the very bottom of the bank account at this point,” LaMere told us. “But we’re here. We made it.

“You just have to eat your way through it,” O’Sullivan remarked. “Just get by if you can. And we did.” 

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