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NIMBY Battles Won, Telegraph Hill Restaurant Julius’ Castle Is Set to Reopen

As this is San Francisco, “fast track” is relative

Julius’ Castle/Facebook

Julius’ Castle, a 1920s-era restaurant that closed in 2007, is on track to open again by the end of 2020, its long-suffering owner tells Eater SF.

As the year comes to a close, Eater San Francisco is following up on some of 2019’s biggest stories, to see how (or if) they were resolved. If you’re wondering how a food news item ended up, drop us a line.

The Telegraph Hill venue has a remarkable history: Its 1541 Montgomery Street lot was first occupied by a grocery store, but in 1923, restaurateur Julius Roz began construction at the spot in hopes of replicating Layman’s Folly, a neighboring German-style castle that was destroyed in 1903. Once it opened, it operated as a speakeasy, then transitioned into a legit business that hosted celebs like Robert Redford, Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Marlon Brando, and Ginger Rogers, L’Italo-Americano reports, and was featured in 1951’s The House On Telegraph Hill.

Over the years, the restaurant was the setting of countless wedding proposals, prom dates, major life event parties, and more, current owner Paul Scott tells Eater SF. It shuttered in 2007, as its owner at the time sought to sell the property. Scott says that the 2012 battle for the landmark (it’s San Francisco landmark #121, for those keeping track) came down to him and “a guy who wanted to build condos.” Scott, a Telegraph Hill resident himself, won.

Though Scott, who’s lived in the neighborhood for “almost 25 years,” said that his sole intention was the return the venue to its fairly recent glory, his neighbors revolted. When the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the plan to reopen the restaurant in 2017, nearby opponents filed an appeal that sent the decision to the Board of Supervisors. They, too, approved the project, so opponents resorted to a lawsuit that claimed — among other things — that the reactivation of the space would “subject them to loud noises every evening, create traffic and parking congestion and resulting safety and pedestrian hazards for residents of the area, and substantially impair and impede their reasonable use and enjoyment of their homes.”

That lawsuit was “resolved” in March, Scott says, finally clearing the way for the restaurant’s return. “Things were completely fine when it operated as a restaurant last time,” Scott says “and it will be fine when we open again.”

Now Scott just needs someone to run the place — oh, and it needs to be remodeled. The interior remodel, which Scott characterized as “very necessary,” won’t begin until Scott chooses someone to handle the restaurant’s operations, as he wants that person to have a hand in its remodel plans.

Right now Scott is interviewing candidates, some of whom have “more of a footprint in managing restaurants” than others. “But we’re not limited in our thinking,” Scott says, and he’s casting a wide net. Anyone he works with will have to be open to tackling the project as “a consultant/management entity,” he says, and will have to “respect the history of the building.”

“Because I own the building and am also in the neighborhood,” Scott says, “I am very sensitive for it to continue to fit in the neighborhood as well as fill its traditional role in San Francisco.” (In other words, folks hoping to open a white wall/blonde wood/minimalist spot should seek greener pastures.)

Once he finds his operation, though, Scott says that it will be full steam ahead, as the group finalizes plans for the interior and figures out a menu. “Things always take longer than you expect,” Scott says (a phrase that should probably be embroidered on the San Francisco city flag). “But if all goes well, we should open some time next year, and people can start making memories with us all over again.”