San Francisco’s kitschy floating restaurant Forbes Island has closed permanently. Located below deck on a small barge designed to look like an island, the restaurant has earned a reputation for sudden, temporary closures, usually for maintenance. But this time the shutter is for good, a Pier 39 spokesperson confirms.
“After nearly 20 years at the Pier 39 marina, Forbes Island has closed and is ready to set sail for a new adventure,” Sue Muzzin tells Eater. Owner Forbes Kiddoo, whom Muzzin calls a “bon vivant and man about town,” has retired, and the island — which is for sale — “will be moved to a new, to-be-announced location.”
Originally built as Forbes’ own personal houseboat, Forbes Island was in business as a restaurant for nearly 20 years. To get onboard, diners took a small shuttle boat from Pier 39. Once there, they enjoyed views from the small lighthouse on deck or lounged beneath the real palm trees before dining on French food that some negative Yelpers compared to cruise cuisine.
The restaurant was first closed by a fire in 2013, and then again for maintenance in 2016. After reopening for a year, the restaurant closed quietly this spring for “temporary maintenance” according to a voicemail message from director of operations Pierre Bleuse. But now the line’s been disconnected and emails to management bounce back with an apology for the closure.
It’s been a long, strange voyage for Forbes Island. In 1975, namesake owner Forbes Kiddoo began construction on his 700-ton floating barge in Marin. He completed it five years later with touches like mirror-lined bedrooms, a hot tub with a waterfall, and actual sand from Carmel. Kiddoo later tried to sell the boat but couldn’t, then opted to market it as a model home for an entire development of floating “Nautalis Islands” — way before the idea of floating “seastead” islands took off with Silicon Valley libertarians.
In 1987, Forbes towed his island to Sausalito without permission, beginning a ticketed dinner series there, but prompting a battle to evict the barge from the San Francisco Bay altogether. Half Moon Bay later rejected Forbes’ offers to dock the island there, calling his barge a “monstrosity.” Finally, in 1999, Forbes Island took up residency at Pier 39.
“It was a great run,” says Pier 39’s Muzzin. But what lies ahead? Uncharted waters.