San Francisco's iconic Cliff House space to reopen with new restaurant in 2022

Eight months after the Cliff House closed permanently and its signage was removed from the historic space, the National Park Service announced its next plan for the building: installing a new restaurant by the end of 2022.

The Park Service said Tuesday that it is canceling its 2019 request for qualifications for potential lessees and is instead moving on to a request for proposals for those interested in taking over the restaurant space.

The announcement is a relief to many after a pervasive rumor spread that the 157-year-old space would be turned into an office building following the closure of the Cliff House in December 2020. The National Park Service, which owns the building, stated this was not the case last year, but Tuesday's announcement of a search for a new restaurant operator should put an end to that rumor.

In its announcement, the park service laid out its timeline for getting a new restaurant into the Cliff House building. The proposal process is set for later this year, and if all goes well, the Park Service expects to have a final selection by mid-2022 with a long-term lease beginning in late 2022.

The Park Service is also searching for someone to lease the space at the former Louis' Restaurant, the group confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another.)

The Park Service didn't state the length of the new lease term in its press release, but lease negotiations was partly behind the closure of the Cliff House when it was run under Dan and Mary Hountalas. The Hountalases had operated the Cliff House since 1973, and when its previous 20-year concession expired in 2018, they were moved to short-term concessions.

During the pandemic, the Hountalases briefly offered to-go services for 10 weeks before deciding to close the restaurant temporarily in July. They later turned down an offer from the Park Service for a three-and-a-half-year lease, bringing an end to the Hountalas era of the Cliff House.

The new concessionaire of the building will not only have a big space to fill but will also be faced with the tough task of coming up with a new name for the building and restaurant — the Hountalases trademarked the Cliff House name, which was why the Cliff House sign was removed when the restaurant closed for business.

SFGATE Deputy Managing Editor Fiona Lee contributed to this report.