Opened in 1997, upscale Union Square restaurant Farallon was known as much for its wild decor as for its menu of tourist-pleasing seafood dishes. The restaurant shut its doors when San Francisco’s shelter in place began in March, saying then that it would reopen when it was “allowed to return to normal operating hours.” But with normalcy still a distant hope, the restaurant has closed for good, SF Gate reports, sending an email to workers saying that the spot will not reopen when the pandemic ends.
The Gate didn’t have any details on the contents of the email, saying only that it “cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the decision.” Eater SF’s attempt to contact the restaurant has not been successful as of publication time.
Farallon was lauded as a dining destination when it opened in the 1990s, a place for power players, special occasion celebrants, and visitors to San Francisco to gather beneath its glitzy domed ceiling and jellyfish light fixtures. In recent years, the decor might have been more of a draw that the food itself. In 2010, then-Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer praised both the menu of sustainable seafood and the spot’s design (co-founder Pat Kuleto is a prolific restaurant designer, as well as the owner of numerous Bay Area restaurants), saying it “feels like an underwater fantasy” and described it as “the big fish of seafood restaurants.” By 2015, however, Bauer said, “I’ve always been enamored with the interior of Farallon,” but “given the price, it wouldn’t now be at the top of my list of recommendations.”
It feels obvious to say that if a spot’s primary draw is its dining room, it’s in a tough spot these days — with indoor dining on pause in San Francisco for an unknown length of time, venues are reliant on the loyalty of their patrons and the quality of their food to make it through this unprecedented period. Add to that the challenge of operating in Union Square, with tourism tanking and downtown workers at home, and it’s hard to see a way forward for spots like Farallon.
Speaking with the SF Business Times, Karin Flood, the executive director of the Union Square Business Improvement District, says that so far, over a dozen businesses in the neighborhood have closed during the pandemic, with more expected to follow. “There’s no value in downtown real estate right now,” Bernard Hong, the co-owner of shuttered Polk Street restaurant Cafe Madeleine, tells the Business Times. The Union Square area, Hong says, “is completely a ghost town,” and according to Flood, only 40 percent of the restaurants and shops in the area are currently open for business.