Matier & Ross reported this morning on the demise of the planned condo tower on the Fairmont Hotel property -- essentially because they wanted to raze the existing hotel tower, built in the 60s, and the powerful hotel workers' union got involved because it looked like it would cost hotel jobs, which obviously it would have, and voted no on the whole thing. There's now talk of a total sale of the hotel property, which allegedly hasn't been doing great, business-wise, but this sounds like another reprieve for the Tonga Room which has been under threat of closure for two years now!
Word of the developer's plan came out in early '09 and sparked much heated discussion and loads of gushing about the Tonga Room -- the crazy Tiki bar in the bowels of the hotel with an hourly thunderstorm and a full pool with floating bandstand that would have gotten the wrecking ball treatment. Preservationists have made several attempts to make a case that this bar is one of the only and oldest continuously operating Tiki bars of its kind, almost fully intact since 1967. Writing in the Chron, architecture critic John King notes that the water feature was actually once the hotel's indoor pool, and was covered over and made the certerpiece of a lounge in the mid-1940s that "resemble[d] a cruise liner set from an Astaire-Rogers musical." The Tiki transformation came later, and later still the bar has become a bit of a sideshow -- serving overly sweet drinks made from canned mixes, catering to the few tourists who follow guidebooks there, and the random hipster or cocktail nerd making the pilgrimage.
Nevertheless, we don't want to see it go! We'd love to see a Tiki aficionado like Martin Cate at Smuggler's Cove take over the drink program and revive the place to its former glory. Last word on the street was that Pete Scully, owner of Bin 38 and The Republic was interested in acquiring the Tonga's assets and relocating them somewhere, but it's unclear if this will happen anytime soon now that the threat of demolition has passed.