SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – San Francisco’s iconic Cliff House Restaurant, which has served tourists and locals on a hill overlooking the Pacific for more than a century, will close at the end of the year.
Dan and Mary Hountalas, the restaurant’s owners since 1973, said in a Sunday post on the restaurant’s website that on December 31, because of the losses caused by the pandemic, they will close and not renew a long-term operating agreement with the national park service.
Built in 1863, the oceanfront restaurant was a San Francisco institution and a major tourist attraction that has gone through several changes. The first modest wooden frame construction was destroyed in a fire in 1894. It was rebuilt and redesigned after a French castle that survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but burned down the following year. The third and current Cliff House in neoclassical design was built in 1909.
The National Park Service bought the property in 1977, four years after the Hountalas began leasing it. Their last long-term contract with Park Service expired in June 2018 and the restaurant has been operating under short-term contracts since then, the couple said.
The Hountalas said the National Park Service should have chosen an operator over the long term “to ensure the continued operation of this national treasure”.
“This is certainly not the way to thank us, a local small business owned and operated by Native Franciscans, for maintaining this San Francisco treasure over the past year with a significant financial loss,” they said.
The couple said 180 employees would lose their jobs and encouraged customers to show their support by emailing the superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area officials did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on Monday.
The Cliff House first closed in March due to the pandemic. They reopened in June to offer take-out service, but closed again after 10 weeks due to “unbearable losses”.
“It costs tens of thousands of dollars every month to maintain and guard the massive Cliff House,” the Hountalases wrote.