The Gaslamp Quarter early this evening appeared almost like a ghost town. Partly boarded up. Mostly lifeless. Very unlike Fridays before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, huge crowds of people would fill the streets on a late Friday or weekend. The restaurants, bars and nightclubs would be packed. But those good times and that party atmosphere have suddenly ended.
I took photos early this evening around 6 pm as I walked up Fifth Avenue through the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter.
The mermaid and those hopeful, thankful messages you see in two upcoming photographs were in front of the Starbucks at the Hard Rock Hotel. They are one of the few places that are open. A nice lady came out, hoping for business. I promised her I’d let my readers know that Starbucks is open. But you must wear a mask.
A few restaurants up and down Fifth Avenue were offering take out, but I saw virtually no business. Almost no people were about, even as California and San Diego slowly lift the pandemic lockdowns and allow businesses to reopen under certain conditions.
I wonder how many of these establishments will survive.
Before the pandemic, many of the businesses in the Gaslamp had a tough enough time of it. Between the many homeless who drive potential customers away, and the sky high rents, I’ve been told it can be difficult to keep doors open. In recent years I’ve seen storefronts constantly change, and FOR LEASE signs on some buildings that never go away.
There have been ambitious plans to create an upscale, world-class pedestrian Gaslamp Promenade along Fifth Avenue. But I wonder. A virus seems to have other plans. Economic disruption continues. The future is in doubt.
It seems there’s a chance the Gaslamp Quarter might return to what it was decades ago. An area of downtown in slow decay. Or consider this harsh possibility: might the Gaslamp once again become San Diego’s seedy “Stingaree” red-light district, as it was a century ago?
Large signs up and down the streets contain hopeful messages, such as Stay Strong and Things Will Be Okay.
As a downtown resident, I do hope the Gaslamp comes out of this crisis okay.