San Francisco, Cliff House Restaurant Shut down

Cliff House shutdown
Cliff House Restaurant shutdown

San Francisco Chronicle logoS.F.’s iconic Cliff House restaurant to shut down

The Cliff House, a San Francisco landmark that has drawn diners and tourists to the neoclassical restaurant hanging over the Pacific Ocean for more than a century, will be closing its doors at the end of the year, a victim of the pandemic and a squabble with the National Park Service.


Its proprietors since 1973, native San Franciscans Dan and Mary Hountalas, posted a long message on the restaurant’s website saying 180 employees will lose their jobs after it closes Dec. 31. The Hountalases said a combination of the coronavirus shutting down business and the federal government stalling on a long-term lease led to the closure.

“The Cliff House will be boarded up and fenced in for several years,” the couple wrote, adding: “Realistically, we are looking at two to three years of a closed facility. And if there is insufficient maintenance done to keep it up, re-opening costs will be tremendous.”

The restaurant had been operating on a series of short-term leases which expired at the end of the year, the proprieters said. On March 17, The Cliff House shut down to diners as the pandemic struck. The operators said they attempted to try takeout-only service in early June, but after 10 weeks “could not continue to sustain the unbearable losses associated with takeout.”

“It costs tens of thousands of dollars every month to maintain and guard the massive Cliff House building,” the Hountalases wrote. “There really is no excuse to be in this situation. There was no COVID-19 in 2018; one or more upper echelon leaders within the NPS obviously did not do their jobs, resulting in this sad situation.”

A request for comment to the National Park Service was not immediately returned Sunday.

The original building was destroyed in a fire on Christmas Day, 1894. An eight-story structure was built at the site, and while it lasted through the 1906 earthquake, it burned in 1907.

In July, four months into the pandemic, Mary Hountalas told The Chronicle that the salty ocean breezes meant that replacing locks and heating systems were expensive, and “the only thing we don’t have is barnacles.”


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