A New Lease on Life for the Tonga

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Apr 30, 2010  |  Updated 3:15 PM PDT
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Academy of Science Night for Grown Ups

Architecturally historic Tonga Room via Kenn Wilson

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The Tiki gods have smiled on the Tonga Room: A new environmental review identifies some ways to spare the legendary landmark.

The Tonga Room is one of the city's strangest watering holes -- literally. Tables surround a giant pool, with the house band balancing on a raft out on the water. Periodically, sprinklers and strobe lights simulate a rain storm in the pool.

Devotees were aghast last year when it was revealed that the Fairmont Hotel, which sits above the Tonga Room, would be demolished to make way for new construction. Protests were quickly assembled, and the bar enjoyed a boom time among distraught San Franciscans wishing to bid it one final goodbye.

But what's this? The newest version of the plans would completely dismantle the bar, build the new tower, and then re-assemble the tiki amenities, either in part or in whole.

The move seems to come in response to a campaign to declare the bar a historic landmark. The bar dates back to 1945, and the lumber in the bar is said to have been built from the timbers and rigging of an old schooner.

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