Cliff House in San Francisco becomes latest government shutdown casualty 

click to enlarge Cliff House
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Ralph Burgin of the Cliff House carries a box of fresh seafood for donation. The Cliff House sits on national parkland.
Crab legs peeked from the plastic tub on Ralph Burgin’s shoulder Thursday morning as he carried fresh seafood from the closed Cliff House, a San Francisco icon perched above the Pacific Ocean.

The food had to be donated or it would rot, said Burgin, who is the general manager of the Cliff House.

The Cliff House has become another victim of the federal government shutdown that started Monday. It will remain closed until Congress passes a budget to fund the government’s obligations, including operations on national parkland; the Cliff House sits within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

“It comes from Washington,” Burgin said of the closure. But Burgin’s staff, along with those of Sutro’s at the Cliff House and the Bistro, were not the only people impacted by the shutdown of the national park area.

Tourists, hikers and view seekers looking for bathrooms or aiming to browse the Cliff House’s gift shop all found locked doors posted with signs notifying them of the shutdown.

A German couple from Munich said they had made it to other national parks across the country before the closures, but came to the Cliff House on Thursday to find only locked doors.

“We just made it where we were, thought they’d close,” said AnnMarie Lhotzky, 80, as she and her husband Peter, 82, looked at the sign taped to the locked door.

“In Germany it wouldn’t happen,” she said.

Victoria Tregoning, 70, of Menlo Park, along with four other Sierra Club members on a day hike, was looking for restrooms at the Cliff House on Thursday.

“All the public toilets are shut,” she said. “It’s a huge impact on people.”

Rae De Palma, 80, of San Carlos complained that it made no sense to close the Cliff House since they are losing money.

Lucky for them, the group of five ladies had brought lunch. For De Palma, that was a BLT.

For Burgin — who had no shortage of things to eat — this was not the first time the Cliff House, a concessionaire at the park, had to deal with a congressional stalemate.

“Back in [1995-96],” he said, “we were allowed to stay open.” While the Cliff House was forced to close, nearby Louis’ Restaurant was not forced to do so, said manager Kathy Hontalas. She said they were allowed to stay open because they hold a lease from the GGNRA. The Cliff House is a concessionaire of the park.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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