San Francisco, CA

Cliff House Closing Forever; Residents Fight Back With Petition to Save Beloved SF Restaurant

Thomas Smith

(Cliff House, 2018. Credit Gado Images)

The Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco is one of the city’s most beloved treasures, an architectural gem which has existed in one form or another for 157 years. Perched on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean in Land’s End, one of the most Westerly parts of the United States, the iconic restaurant has been emblematic of San Francisco for well over a century.

This week, however, the restaurant’s owners (who have operated it since 1973), announced that they would be forced to close the restaurant by the end of the year, as we result of the Covid-19 pandemic and challenges with the National Parks Service, which owns the land on which the restaurant is built.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the restaurant’s owners announced that the closure was due to the virus, but also to an alleged lack of support from the National Parks Service. According to a statement posted on the Cliff House website, the coronavirus pandemic is only the last straw in a series of ongoing challenges with obtaining a long term lease which would allow the restaurant to continue operating into the future.

In their words:

“We have been the proprietors of the Cliff House for 47-1/2 years and are probably the longest tenured in the 157- year history. We were in fact operating the Cliff House four years before it became part of the National Park System. We leased the Cliff House from George Whitney, Jr. in 1973 and the NPS did not purchase it until 1977.
This is certainly not the way to thank us, a local small business owned and operated by native San Franciscans, for taking care of this San Francisco treasure this past year at a significant financial loss. Again, this all could have been prevented by the award of a long-term contract two and half years ago.”

The proprietors also said in their statement that the closure would result in the loss of 180 jobs. They place the blame for the impending closure on the National Parks Service as well as the pandemic itself:

“All of us here at The Cliff House are outraged at the failure of the NPS to select a new long-term operator in 2018, thereby avoiding all this unnecessary hardship and heartache. In the meantime, a lot of priceless memorabilia will be auctioned off and be gone with the wind. Lost forever and with it an important part of San Francisco history.
We are seeking help in holding the NPS publicly responsible for their failures resulting in the loss of the livelihood of 180 employees and their families, as well as the loss of one of San Francisco’s treasured landmarks and the financial loss suffered by those of us local folks who did our best to stay true to this legacy.”

The proprietors urged residents to reach out to the National Parks Service directly by emailing Laura Joss (

San Franciscians responded to the news with sadness, but also with resolve. Taking to Twitter, many lamented the Cliff House’s impending closure, and some began a petition calling for it to continue operating. As of Sunday morning, the petition had gained over 4,400 signatures.

Follow me here at News Break as I continue to report on the Cliff House’s closure and other local Covid-19 and food news.

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Thomas Smith is an award winning entrepreneur, and the co-founder and CEO of Gado Images. Thomas writes, speaks and consults about artificial intelligence, privacy, food, photography, tech, and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a professional photographer, Thomas' photographic work regularly appears in publications worldwide. Pitches/news tips:

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