The OB Hostel, with its iconic rooftop ’60s peace sign, has emerged from the pandemic pause under new ownership.
“We were closed from the end of March up until the end of August, but are so happy to be able to open our doors safely to guests,” said new hostel general manager Julie Jamgochian, with Samesun Ocean Beach, which now operates the facility at 4961 Newport Ave.
“We have several other Samesun locations in California and throughout Canada. We pride ourselves on making sure guests have a safe, comfortable, and clean environment to stay in.”
Samesun plans to open the OB Hostel’s kitchen “as soon as we are legally allowed,” said Jamgochian who added, “We hope to get activities back as soon as is safe for our guests and staff alike. We’re happy to be so close to the beach and in this incredible community.”
Added Jamgochian, “The company name has changed but our staff has stayed the same. We have hired back the staff who worked here previously under USA Hostels.”
Of the transaction, the new hostel GM noted, “The sale was quick as the building is in great condition and has been maintained thoroughly throughout the years.”
There are some changes because of COVID-19 in regards to activities and kitchen accessibility, pointed out Jamgochian. “We have converted a lot of dorms to beautiful private rooms," she said. "We are maxing out at half capacity per San Diego COVID-19 guidelines. And we have hand sanitization stations throughout the building. We also now require masks to be worn when walking through the halls and socially distanced back patio.”
Jamgochian noted Samesun will be abiding by all state and local COVID 19 regulations including frequent sanitizing of high-touch areas, temperature checks for all guests and staff, half capacity in our shared dorms (bottom bunks only), and requiring face masks in all indoor common areas.
“Safety comes first at Samesun Ocean Beach, followed closely behind by fun and support for local businesses,” she said. “All of our guests need tacos, beers, haircuts, etc. We love sending them to our favorite spots on Newport. We are proud to say, ‘We are Samesun OB.’”
Hostel customers must be at least 18 years old and have valid identification. It is a non-smoking facility and there is no curfew.
Previously, USA Hostels Inc. owned the award-winning facility, which it purchased six years ago from retiring past owner John Asher.
The hostel is one of OB’s oldest buildings, having been built in 1909 as The Pearl, a few months after the streetcar line came in. According to Susan James of the Ocean Beach Historical Society, “It was a 20-room hotel and became the Newport Hotel in 1914.” James added the Newport Hotel was shuttered for a while when Asher bought it before he reopened it as an international youth hostel in 1995.
In the past, about 15 to 20 percent of OB hostel guests were from elsewhere in America, with the rest coming from abroad.
Hostel business is traditionally seasonal. Most hostels tend to draw visitors in their 20s and 30s, but there is a fair share of 40-plus-age clients. Beach hostels generally draw a majority of European travelers with a healthy sprinkling of Asians.
There is typically an Irish “invasion” every June, as Irish students are able to get working visas and come to San Diego looking for summer jobs. OB Hostel has also drawn a lot of South Americans from Brazil and Argentina, and Aussies (Australians) all year round.
Immediate past hostel general manager Jack Mckeon said they also got a big influx of Chinese in December. “We’re one of those vibrant beach communities in Southern California, and one of the few places in Southern California that really retains that true flavor of the Southern California beach town,” he said. “Our location two blocks off the water is perfect for a lot of travelers.”
McKeon also noted OB “has a lot of culture and vibrancy born out of the California counterculture movement, which makes it more attractive to youthful guests.”
For more information, visit samesun.com.