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Be Our Guest: Stone Hotel Brewing Up Tourism Dollars For North County

Reported by Nicholas Mcvicker

Escondido leaders are looking forward to the opening of the new hotel, which is expected to pave the way for tourism dollars and jobs.

Its name means hidden, but it's clear people have found Escondido thanks to top attractions like the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Stone Brewing.

Now, city leaders are ecstatic about a new project they hope will pave the way for a larger hospitality industry: Stone Hotel.

Rorie Johnston, executive director of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, said Escondido attracts visitors but has trouble keeping them.

"Currently, people perhaps stay on the coast or they stay in San Diego and springboard up to North County versus the opportunity to stay here and having this as their hub," Johnston said.

That is why Johnston said she's thrilled about the construction of Stone Hotel, which is set to be a 99-room boutique hotel being built on 13 acres of land adjacent to Escondido-based Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.

Greg Koch, co-founder and executive chairman of Stone Brewing, promises the hotel will be an all-encompassing experience. The $26 million project covers a 100,000 square foot build-out, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor space. Koch said it will have oversized rooms and expansive balconies.

“A lot of hotels they're fine, right? But they're kind of generic," Koch said. "You wake up, and you're like I could be in Chicago, I could be in Philly, I could be in Milan. It's hard to tell. At our place, you'll know you're at the Stone Hotel.”

Bob Rauch, CEO of RAR Hospitality, predicts Stone Hotel will have no trouble filling up and anticipates it will appeal to a specific traveler.

"Stone Brewery is a little different because their niche is going to be the leisure traveler who has the income, the disposable income, to spend at a cool resort hotel that is part of the brewery,” Rauch said.

Rauch points out San Diego's hospitality industry has boomed from Tijuana to Camp Pendleton along the coast, and it has expanded to sites along Interstate 15 and State Road 56 to Poway. Rauch said now, the time is finally ripe for Escondido’s tourism industry to soar.

“This market is finally where the city fathers thought it was 25 years ago,” Rauch said. “It is not yet there for people to relocate their companies and they haven't done it yet. But I think it's ripe for economic development. And the best way to get economic development is to get tourists to come to your city and see what you offer."

At the end of the day, Johnston said, it’s all about economic growth.

"When you become a destination city, you want to offer a broad array of services and when you have such an incredible part like our Center for the Arts, and yet you don't have accommodations trying to balance that becomes a challenge. And it's a missed opportunity," said Johnston.

The largest industry in Escondido is retail trade followed by construction. About 9 percent of employees work in accommodations and food services. City leaders like Johnston say Stone Hotel will add to those jobs.

The new hotel is expected to open in 2018.

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