The iconic Redwood Room has closed for a three-month remodel, marking the first time that the space has gotten a refresh since its high-profile makeover by designer Philippe Starck in 2001.
The home of the Redwood Room, the Clift Hotel, changed hands in 2013, and then went under new management last year under Sonesta International. The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel, as it's now known, also stopped accepting reservations as of last Thursday, and as part of the renovation project the company promises a new cafe and restaurant come January 2020. The Redwood Room, they say, will get a revamp "preserving its iconic history while refreshing the space."
The Redwood Room was famously where Chronicle columnist Herb Caen sipped his "Vitamin V" (vodka), and the Starck renovation, under the management of Ian Schrager, was part of a modernist boom in San Francisco around the turn of the 21st century that the New York Times took note of at the time. "For San Franciscans, the prospect of change has all the appeal of an earthquake," the Times wrote. "But the technology explosion, its culture of risk-taking and the wealth it generated created a seemingly unstoppable market for new architecture and design."
The bar in the Redwood Room supposedly dates back to 1933, the year that Prohibition ended, and was purportedly paneled with wood from a single redwood tree. Though this grand, high-ceiling space was part of the hotel (completed in 1915) before that — and like so much bar history in the Bay Area, that 1933 date might not be the true one, given the legendarily lax enforcement of Prohibition in these parts.
The adjacent restaurant space was home to Asia de Cuba in the early part of the last decade, and more recently had been less identifiable hotel restaurant called the Velvet Room.
Starck added an etched glass, mirror-topped bar to the Redwood Room, along with some updated Art Deco fixtures and some early-model plasma screens in place of art that displayed changing video portraits, with eyes that creepily moved. But for years both the bar and the rooms upstairs had started to feel more than kind of '90s.
Stay tuned for updates on the next restaurant iterations, and what the remodel of the bar has in store.