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Historic Julius’ Castle Fights to Reopen on Telegraph Hill

Its return to restaurant royalty has been further delayed

Dennis Jarvis via Flickr

Julius’ Castle, the historic San Francisco restaurant perched near the foot of Coit Tower, is still battling to reopen to diners: Although the Planning Commission has already recommended conditional use authorization to return the vacant city landmark to its roots as a restaurant, they issued a continuance last week, delaying their final approval until a July 6 meeting.

A registered local landmark and among the city’s longest-running eating establishments, Julius’ Castle operated from 1922 until 2007, when its then property owner tried to rent it out as a non-restaurant space. No would-be royalty moved in, and current owner Paul Scott bought the property in 2012 to return it to its former use.

“It was one of the first places I went to when I moved into the Telegraph Hill neighborhood,” says Scott, who “fell in love with the place” right away in 1995. “There’s a wow factor as you take in the view. The interior is old-school, and the combined effect is unique.”

That interior, for the record, includes wood-panelling purchased from the city’s 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. And Scott isn’t alone in his admiration for the view from 302 Greenwich Street, at the end of a 180-degree turn off Montgomery Street. That was also enjoyed by celebrity patrons including Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Sean Connery, and Ginger Rogers. But the king of the“castle” was longtime proprietor Julius Roz, an Italian immigrant restaurateur. According to a 1939 city guide, “To taste [Roz’s] fish sauce supreme, his tagliarini and his banana soufflé is to have a glimpse of an epicure’s heaven.”

Today, however, some neighbors prefer the peace and quiet of life without the restaurant. “The problem is traffic,” one neighbor wrote to the Planning Commission. “Since I live at 1400 Montgomery, just up the hill from Julius’ Castle, I would not like to see it reopen as an operating restaurant.”

Planning has dismissed those concerns so far, and so does Scott. “It’s been here for almost a century, and well before many of the residences that were built here,” he observes. “It’s kind of an institution. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to take neighborhood concerns into consideration — we’re doing that — but it’s a pretty important part of San Francisco history.”