After the devastating floods in Montecito, where I was raised, with so much death and wide-spread destruction, I found it difficult to write anything about restaurants. It felt almost disrespectful to “move on” right after an unexpected tragedy that is off the scale of imagination. But we will continue, and never forget. My parents were stranded in their home near Olive Mill Road then forced to evacuate (for weeks, perhaps months) but we feel incredibly lucky. Through random chance, Montecito Creek overflowed a little more that way than this way and it is the only reason they are alive. It is the only reason they still have a home. That is windfall of good fortune considering so many others lost everything.

The morning of the floods, unlabeled photos of the damage were posted online. Being familiar with the area and recognizing the hardly recognizable, I created a series of before & after photos. This is just a small peek at the immense destruction in Montecito. They cannot even begin to convey the agony of those involved.

The horrific floods and Thomas Fire are taking a heavy toll on local businesses with many reporting the loss of critical revenue in December, one of the biggest shopping months of the year, with the losses continuing in January. Restaurants and supporting businesses have been hit particularly hard. Most, if not all, Montecito restaurants are closed. The City of Santa Barbara is working with business organizations to support recovery efforts for merchants impacted by the fire and flood.

With a federal disaster declaration approved, the City is working with the County Office of Emergency Management, and state and federal legislative officials to identify whether businesses are eligible for assistance. This is particularly challenging for our area because while businesses were significantly impacted through a lack of pedestrian traffic, they were not physically destroyed which is a key marker for disaster relief.

Tourism has also been deeply impacted with freeway closures and fewer overnight visits, after dramatic videos and photos of flood damage and flames reached a worldwide audience. How can you help? Simply dine at local restaurants and shop at local businesses. Many stores have re-opened with special offers and promotions. Support the community’s economic vitality by taking your loved ones out for a meal. Your dollars will keep South Coast merchants in business so the community can continue to thrive.

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  1. Kerry White says:

    glad your family is ok! We will do our best to help the town..I hope tourism will return this spring and summer!!!

  2. Carole says:

    Thank you for posting this. I am glad your family is ok!

    Is there anyway to make your Facebook photos accessible to those not on facebook?

  3. Don Lubach says:

    Keep us posted, John, on all post-flood restaurant news: how are suppiers getting orders to restaurants? What’s happening with our servers, are they having to find work at other locations? Let us know when various places open so we can support them. We need you and your specific form of journalism now more than ever. That said, take care of yourself!

  4. John, Thank you for the update.
    quick update regarding Stella Mare’s in Montecito… we are definitely going to re-open as soon as allowed, maybe as early as Tuesday the 23rd.

    facebook post:
    Thank you everyone who have reached out to us and thank you for your support.
    Stella Mare’s and our staff are all safe and the restaurant suffered very little damage, but there is so much destruction and personal tragedy around us in our community. Many thanks to the first responders, volunteers and anyone working so hard since this tragedy occurred. Thank you for their tireless efforts. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all our friends and neighbors!
    We are planning to open as soon as our street (Los Patos way) and 101 reopens for traffic. According to Caltrans, this may happen this coming Monday or Tuesday; we will let you all know as soon as we find out. Our staff is anxious to get back to work and we are looking forward to see all your familiar faces!
    In the meantime:
    Dining Reservations can still be made following the Open Table link on our website ( or on Email us via our website for inquiries; emails will be checked daily.
    Or leave us a voice mail by calling (805) 969 6705 or
    (805) 618 4312
    Our off-location Event office is open for business, please call us at (805) 895 9880 or follow the website link to inquire about your future event.

    The Stella Team

  5. Lawanna Kilori says:

    It is sad to know what happened. I hope your family is doing well and recovering. Out of such horrible disasters, miracles happen to some and your family is one of them. Those horrific floods and fire are really destroying businesses in the area. Such natural disasters create crisis for the businessmen and it is saddening to see that what people work hard for getting destroyed. Good thing, not all the businesses were destroyed. I hope the city gets a good answer from the County Office of Emergency Management to get assistance. I hope to know more and be updated.

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