COVID claims another victim: Phil’s BBQ

The fat lady has sung for Phil's BBQ, San Marcos. No more baby back and beef ribs for you/Phil's BBQ

It all ended for Phil’s BBQ at San Marcos today when the fat lady sang no more mesquite grilled baby back and beef ribs, chicken and sandwiches for you, no thanks to COVID-19.

In a stunning late Thursday announcement, especially distressing for local lovers of one of the best barbecue experiences in the nation, Phil’s BBQ said it was closing its San Marcos location permanently due to financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is very depressing. I’ve done this close to 40 years, 22 years here in San Diego and I’d say it’s the most depressing feelings about business I’ve ever had, because my passion for my business is right here,” owner Phil Pace said, while touching his heart.

Phil’s BBQ on the road in undated photo/Phil’s BBQ

Nationally renowned Phil’s BBQ started out in 1998 at Mission Hill, relocating to much larger digs at Point Loma in 2007, then expanding to San Marcos in 2010 as a second location. Subsequent restaurants opened at Santee and Rancho Bernardo.

A Temecula  location opened earlier this year, just before coronavirus overwhelmed  the nation. Phil’s also dished out the “Phil’s Experience” at Petco Park, Section 113 and the rooftop at The Western Metal Building; San Diego International Airport Terminal 2 West and the Sycuan Casino uncommons section.

But tonight, a North County nation of barbecue fanatics weeps for Phil Pace and the Creekside Market Place Phil’s BBQ location that is no more.

“If it wasn’t for COVID,” Pace said to NBC 7 News, “I feel San Marcos probably would’ve had a chance. The decision to close really, truly was heartfelt.”

Pace added: “It was just basically a business decision and to stop the bleeding. The majority of the employees who were working at the San Marcos location have transferred to other locations.”

Actually, the hand-wringing was on the wall ever since COVID lockdown and sporadic business lockouts first emerged as a life-choking national emergency in March.

Pace stopped operations in March at the San Marcos location. He and his business associate estimated they would be losing $10,000 to $15,000 a day if they stayed open. Pace said they’ve lost $200,000 since closing in March and decided to close permanently last week.

Phil didn’t come from a long line of BBQ connoisseurs. Instead, he created from scratch a top-secret recipe for BBQ rubs and sauce while taking his dad’s advice “to only cook what you know best and treat employees like family.” Phil’s has been a pioneer of fast-casual dining since the opening of the first restaurant, giving San Diegans what they want – great BBQ. Taking care, satisfying cravings and supporting customers has always been the number one priority, Pace said.

Aside from world class BBQ, Phil Pace also loved the equine crowd, creating an Escondido horse rescue/Phil’s BBQ

A longtime horse lover and animal rescuer, Pace also wanted to give back to the community in another way other than his restaurant. In 2014, he founded ResQue Ranch in Escondido, California – a non-profit equine rescue and rehabilitation center that provides shelter, food, physical therapy, socialization, training, and adoption opportunities for rescued and rehabilitated horses. They rescue neglected, abused, abandoned, emaciated, retired, lame, and injured horses, all of whom otherwise remain at great risk of ending up in the slaughter pipeline. For more information, you can visit

Since the San Diego community has been an intricate part of the Phil’s BBQ journey, Pace also contributed a million dollars to various charities around the County over the years. We support organizations that benefit underprivileged children and their education, needy families, and animals.

The other Phil’s locations will continue operations, Pace said, adding he hoped to add another North County location in the future when the virus died down. For all things Phil’s BBQ, visit the website for more.

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