Dave Landman bought the hotel and spa in 2012 for $1.5 million.
Humble Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel and Spa is one of the few places booming during Covid-19. It makes a big impact for the tiny, high desert town, population 561, where the hotel, pools, and restaurant employ 19 locals. It’s also serendipitous for the new buyers of the hotel, an event design group from San Diego, who are in escrow on the place — and 80 percent of the town that is included in the $3.9 million property. Owner Dave Landman, the “Naked Guy,” who owns De Anza nudist resort, bought the hotel and spa in 2012 for $1.5 million. He spent an undisclosed sum restoring it as a rustic-chic reiteration of Jacumba’s former panache.
Jay of Jay's Souther Cafe: “We managed to stay open, by the grace of God."
“Covid has increased business a lot,” Landman said. “We had already planned to sell before Covid happened.” Ironically, the pandemic has breathed new life into his enterprise. Bikers (motor and cyclist), road-trippers, artists, backcountry hikers, and city-dwellers in search of respite were already wise to the place, but now it’s coming alive with people seeking an out-of-the-way place to escape pandemic woes. Occupancy at the hotel is way up over the past two months.
Jacumba’s sunny climate and clear nights are ideal for outdoor dining.
At the start of the pandemic the town had pretty much closed down to visitors. Though construction commenced on a new section of border wall, and CHP motorcycle cops continued to train on area roads, Jacumba was quieter than usual in April and May. The hotel, Raven’s Nest Bar, and Tepary Grill shut down. Jay’s Southern Café on Old Highway 80, the only other restaurant in town, was doing strictly takeout.
The old hotel burned down in 1983, but the chimney remains on a dusty lot next to Old Highway 80.
“We managed to stay open, by the grace of God .... and continued support from the community. We’re lucky, we’re an established business,” said owner Jay’s father. “We hope [the sale] will be a positive thing for the town.”
Landman told NBC in April it broke his heart to look into the eyes of all his employees. He had to send them home for a while. But since Jacumba’s sunny climate and clear nights are ideal for outdoor dining, Landman was able to adapt to new regulations.
“We’re following the rules,” Landman said. As far as he knows no Covid cases have been reported in Jacumba Hot Springs.
“The restaurant is full every time I’m there,” said Connie Danielson, one of the real estate agents on the listing.
The old bathhouse, with its crumbling wrap-around archways
“And the huge outdoor patio leaves plenty of room for distancing” said co-lister Lanz Correia.
The buyers were sitting on that patio in July, having lunch, when they decided to invest in the place. Covid had slowed down prospects in the city and they were looking for a project. The three new (potential) owners plan to update the hotel to create a venue for weddings and restore the area around the old man-made lake (a hot bird-watching spot) as a campground. Landman helped refill the lake when he bought the town—it had dried to a stagnant puddle. Next door to the hotel there’s a vacant retro gas station that would be a fitting backdrop for a museum. There’s talk of a coffee shop.
“The buyers dug up a bunch of old photos, they’re planning to play up the history of the place,” said Carey Guthrie of Coldwell Banker West. Tourists and travelers have been visiting the Jacumba mineral pools for over 100 years; the Kumeyaay frequented the area for thousands of years. Before Palm Springs became popular, Jacumba was a destination for 1920s-1950s Hollywood getaways. Opened in 1925 (as Hotel Vaughn), luxurious Hotel Jacumba fell out of favor as Interstate 8 bypassed the town. The old hotel burned down in 1983, but the chimney remains on a dusty lot next to Old Highway 80.
72-year-old owner Dave Landman has left his mark: in 2013 he led a petition to bring back the words “Hot Springs” to the town name. But he couldn’t fix it all: the old bathhouse, with its crumbling wrap-around archways, it still one of the town’s most prominent landmarks. Some of the storefronts he renovated remain empty.