San Francisco's Famous Tonga Room Tiki Bar May Close in 2011
The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar—the famous and famously over-the-top tiki lounge at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel—may soon be sold, dismantled, and moved, or even closed altogether, as the hotel prepares a major renovation.
This is San Francisco, though, where the unexpected is an everyday occurrence, so it's not surprising that the city planning commission is withholding its approval of the hotel's plans while considering the room's "historic importance." A Tiki bar? Historically important? As I said—this is San Francisco, after all. Check out this amateur video for a sense of the bar's charming weirdness.
Since 1945 the Tonga Room has been a local favorite for its bamboo-heavy "Polynesian" decor, dance floor made from an old schooner, rattan furniture, floating bandstand in the room's "lagoon," and simulated thunder-and-lightning rainstorms. How many umbrella drinks have been emptied here? How many anniversaries celebrated? How many lonely sailors have met the girl of their dreams, her silhouette cast against the glow of a tiki torch, head swaying to the music of ukuleles and steel guitars?
You still have until at least January 2011 to visit the place; that's when the planning commission expects to make a decision. There have been tentative offers to buy the room's fixtures and relocate it elsewhere. But if that doesn't happen, it may be time to say aloha to a sentimental slice of Bay Area history.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.