Perched on the 19th floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco, you’ll find the stylish Top of the Mark bar. Its large windows offer sweeping views of the city in an elegant setting, but these days, no one is around to enjoy it.
Since March, the classic 80-year-old cocktail lounge has remained inaccessible after the hotel closed its doors to the public, save for a group of first responders it currently hosts. With fewer guests to tend to, things have been much quieter.
“It doesn’t feel the same,” said Michael Pace, general manager of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco. “It feels like that energy is missing.”
After the shutdown, the hotel was allowed to host first responders that needed a place to stay between their shifts. But with fewer visitors on site, several hotel personnel were laid off. Pace said that about 25% of nearly 265 team members remain on site.
Employees at Top of the Mark weren’t as lucky.
“Everyone at Top of the Mark is no longer working [and] haven’t been since March,” Pace said. “For me as a general manager it causes great concern. Until the city allows us to reopen, our hands are tied.”
Top of the Mark has a unique challenge in that it’s an indoor rooftop bar. When other rooftop bars around the city opened for patio service in mid-June, the historic bar in Nob Hill was left at a disadvantage given it’s an enclosed establishment.
“The challenge right now is that we can’t [reopen], and it’s understandable because the city has said no indoor dining,” Pace said.
Just a short drive down the hill, popular rooftop bar Charmaine’s, located on the sixth floor of San Francisco Proper, has welcomed guests back. Kalai Akana, director of outlets and training for food and beverage at San Francisco Proper, said that the bar opened shortly after the city permitted outdoor dining.
Staff at Charmaine’s have since been trained on new COVID-19 operating procedures. Now, employees and guests have mandatory temperature checks, guests sit at tables spaced six feet apart and, unlike pre-pandemic days, reservations are now required.
“We’ve moved to reservations to have better control and not have a long line [by the entrance],” Akana said.
When guests arrive at the McAllister Street entry, a hostess shares what they can expect and then directs them to the service elevator. Only a single party can ride the lift without the company of the hostess.
When it comes to sanitizing the elevator, Akana said it is done hourly by a houseman who also wipes and disinfect buttons, doorknobs and stairwells. Akana said that so far guests have felt safe with the new implementations. If a guest doesn’t want to ride the elevator to Charmaine’s, stairs are always an option.
Reopening Charmaine’s has moved without a hitch, but Akana admits that some of the new protocols might take adjustment.
“What we miss most is the smile,” Akana said. “In lineups, we talk to colleagues about intonation, body language, and to smile with your eyes.”
Pace said that the Mark Hopkins hotel has made changes since March so that once it can safety open there won’t be any setbacks. Likewise, sanitization protocols have been established, including regular cleaning of the elevators.
When asked if guests could take the stairwell to reach Top of the Mark once it reopens, Pace said they can, though he doesn’t advise it.
“I wouldn’t recommend taking 19 floors to Top of the Mark, but I would tell people not to worry about it,” Pace said. “We’ve reduced the volume for everyone’s safety.”
Pace looks forward to some time this month when the city will supposedly clear hotels for reopening, though he knows it won’t include Top of the Mark — at least not yet.
“We’re telling people that the plan is to reopen by the holidays, but we don’t know how that would look like right now,” Pace said.
Pace is confident in the safety measures the hotel has made and is just waiting for the green light to welcome guests again.
“I think when the city tells us we’re ready to open up, we’ll be ready to go,” Pace said. “We’ve been ready for two months.”