Hotel San Francisco is now open and ready to rock the Financial District with cocktails, curated playlists of rock music, and one of the sassiest bar interiors to hit the scene this year.
Replacing longtime Mexican restaurant Mercedes, Hotel San Francisco is the result of what its three Australian owners — Thomas Glenwright, Paul Schulte, and Priscilla Dosiou (an SF resident) — saw as a gap in the market in SF for truly lively bar scenes in San Francisco. Partially to blame, says Glenwright, is the high cost of liquor licenses in the city.
“When I first came to San Francisco, I saw a bit of a gap in the market for lively bar scenes,” Glenwright, who owns several hotspots with his partners in Australia, told Eater SF. “In Australia, there are a ton of fun, creative people having a crack at the market and doing really well. Here, the cost of the liquor license is so high, people don’t have the opportunity because of start-up costs.”
The space was designed by Dosiou and Schulte, with L.A.-based branding firm The Imagists, and it’s giving even superstar designer Ken Fulk (Leo’s Oyster Bar) and all of his magic a run for his money, with colorful wallpaper and neon lyrics to the Eagles’ song Hotel California emblazoning the walls. Artist Serge Gay Jr. provided the mural of palm leaves behind the bar with its velvet and brass stools, while other graphic details like skulls and cacti are scattered throughout the space.
The outcome is a bar that’s open for lunch, dinner, and late into the night (the bar has a 2 a.m. liquor license, though for now it closes at 1 a.m.). A big component is music, as evidenced in the lyrical name, portraits of musicians like rapper Biggie Smalls, and a very carefully curated playlist from Australian music branding company Mustard. Eventually, the downstairs basement space will open as another late night hangout; stay tuned.
As for the Australian connection, Dosiou says that the group made a conscious decision not to be an “Australian bar,” but to bring in their homeland’s irreverent spirit, plus a few odes to Aussie culture like a rhinestone boomerang on the wall, and Australian lollies delivered with the check.
The food offerings include an all day bar menu designed to share, plus a smaller six item offering for lunch from chef Keven Wilson (Perbacco). The group hopes to offer an option for a quick meal that’s more inviting than a salad factory, or a wrap to-go.
“We’ve been very conscious of the price point,” says Schulte. “We don’t want to be seen as just a restaurant. We’ve priced ourselves for lunchtime at 15 dollars or cheaper for share plates.”
The cocktails, from Jonny Cimone (Farmer Brown, Mestiza) will include both seasonal cocktails, and twists on classics like negronis and old fashioneds that have been pre-batched and served in custom-etched glass bottles. Glenwright, who has a degree in wine science, has arranged a wine list of 25 options by the glass, with wines from California, Australia, Greece, France, Italy, and beyond. “We want to be particularly generous with giving people tastes, helping them find what they like,” said Glenwright. So, don’t be shy when asking for a taste.
Ultimately, Hotel San Francisco is intended to be the place to meet for cocktails, that stretches into dinner and more cocktails, offering a less stuffy option for FiDi workers and locals. Happy hour promises to be a strong draw, with drink specials and upscale snacks like the duck crostini and fries with “fancy salt.”
Stop by Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. til late, Saturday from 4 p.m. til late; Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.