Entries from October 2010

October 21, 2010

UPDATED: The Continuing Saga of San Francisco’s Tonga Room

Filed under: News,San Francisco,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:26 pm
Tonga Room
Tonga Room, photo by Eric October, from Critiki

As most everyone and their mother has heard by now, one of the most beautiful, historic tiki bars in the world, San Francisco’s Tonga Room, is going to close sometime between, erm… now… and uh… never. My money’s on the time being something closer to the “now” end of that spectrum, I’m afraid. After many, many months of waiting and worrying, I think that the end times are finally here.

The short version: the Tonga Room is in the Fairmont Hotel, which is one of the higher-end hotels in a very high-end district of a generally high-end kind of a town. The hotel wants to be able to do a better job of handling very large conferences, and in order to do that they need to clear out a large, somewhat contiguous area within the hotel and turn it into a ballroom and series of meeting rooms that can be used flexibly. That, and they want to add condos. It’s the march of progress, folks, and I just don’t think it can be held back.

A lot of people have been working very hard to make the argument that the Tonga Room is historic and worth saving. It’s been a hard argument to make with the hotel folks—the hotel itself is historic, having been built in 1906, and they have not been terribly warm to the idea that this room full of ’60s relics is anything but an embarrassment. (The Tonga Room itself has been around longer than that—it went tiki relatively late in its life.)

But the preservationists’ work seems to have at least partially paid off… the city’s Historic Preservation Commission is due to recommend today that the artifacts be saved. I think everyone has given up on the idea of the room being preserved as-is, but at least the point is being made that the items within can’t just get sent to a junkyard. Now the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a “local restaurateur” has a letter of intent to purchase the items, and has a plan to move them to a new location. The identity of the restaurateur, and any other details, won’t be announced until the deal gets worked out completely… but the announcement could come at the commission meeting.

That’s as good as it’s going to get, folks. I can’t imagine the pool will be recreated—that pool represents an awful lot of square footage that could be seating—but hopefully the pieces will at least continue to be on display somewhere. Beyond the thorny pool/thunderstorm problem of relocating the Tonga Room, the pieces in that space are simply massive… it’ll take a very large space to hold them. Let’s hope that this mystery restaurateur has very deep pockets.

There’s been plenty of murmuring around town that this would be a perfect project for Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, which… duh. And, yes please. I can’t imagine sinking the kind of money that would go into this venture and not including the tiki home run king. If Martin knows anything, though, he’s silent about it, which is par for the course. He’s famously good at keeping secrets. If nothing else, we owe Martin some thanks for showing that tiki can be great. A few short years ago, I don’t know that a restaurateur would have been interested in investing in tiki on this scale.

UPDATE 10/21 at 7:55pm:
Per KGO, at the meeting today the decision from the Planning Commission has been delayed until next year. There are “too many concerns,” not just the pleas from citizens to save the Tonga Room, but also issues spanning from job losses to neighborhood congestion. This would likely also put the brakes on any deal to relocate the Tonga Room.

UPDATE 10/22 at 1:47pm:
The mystery restaurateur has been revealed: Peter Scully, a Marina district nightclub owner and event promoter.

October 20, 2010

Viva Kate!

Filed under: History,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:32 pm

It’s been a hard month. Tiki-Kate was sick for a long time, but she was so darned tough that we couldn’t help but be optimistic that she was going to eventually be okay. When we got word that her cancer was incurable, we’d hoped to still have some time with her, maybe even some great time once the chemo had left her system a bit. Sadly, it was not to be; Kate passed in only a few days.

She had enough time to do a bit of planning, and she let her wishes be known: she wanted lots of aloha wear at her memorial service, and she wanted a luau. Her family and friends gathered at her sister’s house, and we had a wonderful time sharing our joys and our sorrows and our memories.

Before Kate passed, I told her my plan to create a website for her, to be a tribute to all the wonderful things she had done for tiki. A great big celebration, a great big going away present. She got to hear about it, but she didn’t get to see it. I’m utterly crushed about that.

This has been pretty difficult. It’s hard to code when you want to cry. But it helped a lot, too… I spent a lot of time luxuriating in the wonderful Kateness still left in the world.

Here it is… a celebration of Tiki-Kate, called Viva Kate!*

Viva Kate!Viva Kate! A celebration of Katherine “Tiki-Kate” Simmons

Kate was particular about getting facts right, and boy did I love that about her. Personally, I would love for her to become a larger-than-life figure, a Paul Bunyan of tiki (and I’ve already seen some of that happening)… but on Viva Kate, I want the facts. It makes it feel more like it’s her site that way. I’ve had some assistance already with some corrections, but I’d love it if anyone out there could help me if they see anything that isn’t quite right, or if there’s anything that’s been left out that should really be included.

Time will trundle on, and new people will encounter the information that only exists because Tiki-Kate put it out there. I hope Viva Kate will help them understand where it came from; that this wonderful woman—who didn’t even know them—wanted to share a bit of beauty with them.

Mahalo, Tiki-Kate! I miss you too, too much.

* I originally wanted to call the site “Tiki-Kate, Fuck Yeah!” But that didn’t seem quite right… she said “fudge” a lot, but I don’t know that I ever heard her swear quite that readily. So maybe “Tiki-Kate, Fudge Yeah!” is the sort of unofficial alternate name.


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Humuhumu
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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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