Attention lovers of brilliantly kitschy vintage interiors and tiki-chic . . . San Francisco's Tonga Room is in danger of becoming yet another legendary American cocktail lounge relegated to dust. The Tonga is located in the basement of Nob Hill's historic Fairmont Hotel, which is about to endure a major "renovation" (most likely so it can look like a faceless W Hotel, or something equally vanilla), so preservationists got hold of the developers plans, and have discovered that they plan to gut the magical Polynesian valhalla, so we must do whatever it takes to stop them . . . even if it means holding a hookie lau/sit-in, and chaining yourself to the front doors with hibiscus leis and fishing nets.
It would break my heart to hear that the Tonga was no more, as I have a treasured memory of a night there with my family, in the late-'90s . . . my mom and dad had been having a really stressful year, and I hadn't seen them relaxed or having any fun in quite a while, so we decided to drive up to S.F. to visit my little sister, Lizzie, who was attending college there at the time, and she brought us to the Tonga Room for cocktails. My parents aren't big drinkers, so the lounge scene has never been their thing, but the moment the faux-tropical rainstorm began over the pool in the middle of the dining room (which magically occurs every 20 minutes), and a Hawaiian-jazz combo floated out into the middle of the water in a thatch-roofed boat, we all began to laugh, and my dad led my mom onto the bamboo dance floor, where they swooned their stress away to the tune of a steel guitar. Oh, Tonga Room . . . I love you.
(L to R) Me circa late-'90s . . . if a cocktail doesn't have at least 2 umbrellas and a super-long straw . . . i'm out, boozy post-Tonga photo-shoot in the Fairmont lobby, I remember Lizzie wanted this shot to be like Suspiria-meets-heroin-chic, my adorable parents cutting a seagrass rug on the Tonga Room dance-floor, me and my dream car (at the time) in the Fairmont garage.
With the unforeseen loss of Trader Vic's in L.A., and Kelbo's before that, there are hardly any places as wonderfully tricked-out as The Tonga left in the world (not even in Hawaii), and we must fight for it, showing the developers that if they restore it, it will thrive. Sign this PETITION, and if you live near S.F., or are planning a visit, show your support of The Tonga by spending some moolah on a mai-tai, or anything served in a flaming half-coconut. Mahalo.
Photos: eBay, arkivatropika.com, Yelp, Christito on Flickr