The Cliff House, the world-famous restaurant at the western edge of San Francisco, has been vacant since 2020, and for months, the National Park Service has kept mum on the identity of the business that would replace it.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that a business known as Sutro Lands End Partners LLC has been awarded a 20-year lease for the venue—which is inside Golden Gate National Recreation Area—and will revive the space as well as the cafe inside the Lands End Visitors Center a block away. The building is expected to open to the public in late 2024.
San Francisco attorney Alexander Leff, who has worked to restore Malibu Pier in Southern California, is the driving force behind that company.
Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group—the local mini-chain that owns “fine-casual” San Francisco restaurants like the Madrigal and Trestle, as well as Mama Oakland and the considerably more upscale Vault—will consult on the famed seaside operation’s revival as well.
With a name that pays homage to the long-defunct Sutro Baths nearby—San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro founded both operations in the late 1800s—Sutro Lands End Partners is clearly aiming to reinvigorate one of the city’s unique cultural entities. In spite of appearing in The Princess Diaries, the Cliff House had largely become incidental to San Francisco’s dining scene—the kind of place where locals would bring out-of-town relatives.
“Our goal is to make this beloved icon into a place that welcomes all San Franciscans and all those who love San Francisco,” Sutro Lands End Partners states on its new website, in anticipation of meetings with the public to determine what the restaurant will look and feel like.
As previously reported, due to the Cliff House’s historic nature, the new tenants are unable to make many changes. Previous tenants Mary and Dan Hountalas had run the restaurant for more than four decades, and they owned the trademark for the name. Consequently, the Cliff House’s distinct signage came down when the Hountalases vacated, but a press release from Hi Neighbor said they’re “seeking payment in order to allow the building to continue to be called the Cliff House.”
The current structure, built in 1909, is the third to bear the name “Cliff House,” as the first two buildings burned down. The nearby seaside diner Louis’ Restaurant also closed during the pandemic, and the National Park Service announced earlier this year that it was looking for a new tenant for that venue as well.
Astrid Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org