Finally, we get word that a contract has been signed, and a San Francisco native with experience revitalizing landmark properties will lead the project, with the help of SF-based Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group.
The outfit that was awarded a 20-year lease by the National Park Service is called Sutro Lands End Partners, which is led by San Francisco attorney Alexander Leff. Leff, according to a release, has “rejuvenated other notable California landmarks into popular destinations, including the iconic Malibu Pier in Malibu.” As the Santa Monica Daily Press reported, Leff has held the concession contract for the pier since 2003, and in 2013 worked to find a new operator for the iconic Beachcomber Cafe, which later reopened as the Malibu Farm restaurant.
“Since 1863 there has been a Cliff House on that dramatic cliff welcoming locals and visitors to come and be inspired by the views of the Pacific Ocean and perhaps share a drink or a meal with friends and family,” Leff says in a statement. “We are honored to have been chosen by the National Park Service to be the stewards of this beloved place for the next generation.”
Sutro Lands End Partners, according to their contract, will have to continue the historic uses of the Cliff House, which include a restaurant, cafe, event space and retail store. As a San Francisco native who grew up in the Richmond District, Leff says “it’s an honor to be given the opportunity to restore this beloved landmark and to do so is my way of expressing my gratitude and a helping hand to give to our beautiful city at a time when it could use the help of all of us who live here.”
Leff added that “San Francisco has been good to me and to my family since my grandparents arrived here during World War II,” and he said, “I’m well aware that it’s a difficult time to be a big to undertake hospitality project in San. Francisco.”
Leff partnered with Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group on its bid for the project, and they say they will launch a series of public meetings to get locals’ input on what they want to see in the building’s restaurant spaces.
“We look forward to bringing local hospitality businesses to this historic site that will offer a variety of dining options at various price points,” Hi Neighbor co-founder Ryan Cole said in a statement. “Each will demonstrate the depth and diversity of food and beverage talent in the Bay Area, as well as showcase products from local and sustainable farmers, fishermen and food purveyors.”
Cole adds that the Cliff House “belongs to everyone who loves San Francisco, whether they are locals or visitors. Our goal is to be a place where” everyone feels welcome again, regardless of whether they are there to meet with friends , savor a delicious meal, shop, or just enjoy the view.”
Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group currently operates The Vault and The Vault Garden, Trestle, and The Madrigal in San Francisco, as well as Mama on Oakland’s Grand Avenue. Cole and his group are also collaborating with the former chefs of the Michelin star Marlena on a new restaurant coming to Japantown.
BCV Architecture + Interiors, which worked on both the Ferry Building and the SF Mart/Twitter Building, will lead the renovation work.
“Our goal will be to introduce building enhancements and decor that will create a warm welcome for incoming visitors, connect them with the rich history of the building and its site, and encourage engagement with the natural environment through activation of the exterior decks, terraces of the building and street fronts,” says Hans Baldauf, head of BCV. “We see an opportunity to make the building dynamic by providing multiple food and retail offerings.”
Whether or not the place will call itself The Cliff House remains an open question. The press release acknowledges that the former operators, Mary and Dan Hountalas, trademarked the name, and “seek payment to allow the building to remain called the Cliff House.” The Hountalases gave up their lease in 2020 and have repeatedly expressed their disappointment in the Park Service’s decision to put the building up for open bidding.
Stay tuned for more details as we get them. In the meantime, Leff and his team are collecting public input and memories on this website.
Previously: Two Historic SF Oceanfront Restaurants, The Cliff House and Louis’ Diner, Set to Come Back to Life… Sometimes
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