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Meet Michelle Aftimos of Lucky D’s Hostel in East Village

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Aftimos.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michelle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I met David Egan the previous owner of the building where Lucky Ds is located. He had won a liquor license and was going to open a bar on the ground floor and thought having a hostel above the bar would provide a more suitable clientele than his current SRO hotel guests. He didn’t know anything about hostels and so I was hired to open the hostel in 2007. I was managing a hostel in Pacific Beach at the time. I am originally from New Zealand and was just about to return to New Zealand but decided to stay to open Lucky D’s. San Diego is a hard city to leave and I was happy for the excuse to stay. David was not successful in his bar venture and so eventually sold the bar to the current owners and the hostel to myself in 2013. He also sold his building at the same time.

Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest struggle is always dealing with our old building. Built around 1903 we do not have any modern conveniences. There is no elevator (we are in the top 3 floors of our 4 storied building), old electrical, old plumbing that is in continual need of repair, old windows etc. Our location is amazing, in the city center, but this also means a lot of noise (we are above a bar, fire station is two blocks away). So trying to keep the building functioning and clean while providing our guests the many amenities expected all within a very limited budget is a continual challenge.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
At our basic level we offer low cost accommodation. But hosteling is about much more than a cheap place to sleep. We are a community, a home away from home. We have many communal areas where guests can gather to meet, socialize and learn about each other’s cultures. From our large kitchen where guests can cook together, to our large common room where guests gather before we take them out each night on our organized nightly events, to our small reading, room, computer lab and TV room there is a place for everyone. As San Diego hotels get more and more expensive our guests greatly appreciate the affordable option we provide, but many also leave having made lifelong friends and that is what we are most proud of.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Unfortunately San Diego is becoming a very expensive city, which makes offering low cost accommodation difficult. We will most likely be priced out of our building by the end of our current lease in 7 years and with nowhere to move to we will simply close. The city of San Diego is very difficult to work with. We tried to open a small bed and breakfast in Pacific Beach. The city told us that our location was zoned for the use, but after opening code compliance told us differently. The city continually gave us different information on what we needed to add, was extremely slow and expensive to work with and eventually we had to close. For the brief time we were open we maintained a 98% rating on hostel world. The building still sits empty, making no tax revenue for the city, while Airbnb continues to expand with many full time Airbnb “hotels” operating in the neighborhoods which do not have to comply with any codes or regulations.

Pricing:

  • 4 bed dorm beds from $25
  • Private rooms from $59

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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