The beefeaters may or may not be back out front of Union Square’s lux and historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel, as the joint was quietly sold off for $158 million in April, and is undergoing an "extensive renovation" before it reopens.
Any recent trip to the luxury, historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel will have shown the place completely boarded up, with none of its distinctive beefeater-costumed bellhops out front, and wooden boards covered with murals of flowers over all of its ground-floor doors and windows. And like nearly every luxury downtown hotel, it had not had reason to be open during the pandemic because the local tourism industry remains in a coma.
But it turns out those flowery wooden boards aren’t just to protect the windows. They’ve been hiding something. The Prohibition-era, 416-room hotel was quietly sold off in February for $157.6 million ($379,000 per room!), as the SF Business times reported back then, which industry analysts still considered a lowball price. And now the Business Times reports the place is undergoing an “extensive renovation,” but the new owners are being tight-lipped about its reopening date, saying only that it would “reopen soon” (per their website) and "later this year" (per a LinkedIn job posting) or "2022" as they told the Business Times.
The new owners are a hospitality outfit called Northview Hotel Group, whose portfolio is not large, but skews luxury. You’re likely more familiar with the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, who’ve managed the place in recent decades, though the Drake has been owned by Pebblebrook Hotel Trust since 2010.
“The Sir Francis Drake has been under renovation since Northview acquired it in April,” the Business Times reports. “The hotel representative declined to comment further beyond the opening date target.”
You, a Bay Area resident, are likely to care little about the lower 21 stories of the tourist-serving Sir Francis Drake Hotel. You may, however, care about the top floor, the former Harry Denton’s Starlight Room. That is now called Lizzie’s Starlight Room, and is also currently “temporarily” closed. It wouldn't be a surprise to see it get another rebrand.
And there's no word about what will happen with the ground-floor restaurant space, which for years was home to the (sometimes) acclaimed Scala's Bistro.
And also maybe due for a rebrand? The Sir Francis Drake Hotel itself, as he was a slave trader. As SFGate explains, Drake's legacy involves “enslaving around 1,300 Africans, which likely meant about three times as many died.”
Image: Google Street View