S.F.’s beloved Beefeater door­man to re­tire

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - News - By JANIE HAR

SAN FRAN­CISCO — An­other bit of old, quirky San Fran­cisco will be no more when Tom Sweeney fi­nally hangs up his white pressed col­lar and sig­na­ture Beefeater jacket this week­end af­ter more than four decades of open­ing doors at the Sir Fran­cis Drake Ho­tel down­town.

Sweeney has taken the lug­gage of movie stars and shaken hands with ev­ery U.S. pres­i­dent from Ger­ald Ford to Barack Obama. Vis­i­tors from around the world have had their pho­tos taken with him, of­ten af­ter he’s told them where to catch the ca­ble car and how to get to Fish­er­man’s Wharf.

“It’s one of the best jobs in San Fran­cisco,” says Sweeney, 62, as a ca­ble car clanks by. “Work­ing out­side a land­mark ho­tel, ca­ble cars come by ev­ery nine min­utes, it doesn’t get much bet­ter than that.”

The man known as a “San Fran­cisco orig­i­nal” and “liv­ing land­mark” re­tires Sun­day af­ter 43 years in a changed city. San Fran­cisco con­tin­ues to grap­ple with home­less­ness, ag­gres­sive pan­han­dling and ve­hi­cle break-ins even as some res­i­dents have be­come

wealth­ier amid a tech boom. The hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try has also changed dra­mat­i­cally, making Sweeney a throw­back to an era when door­men hailed cabs and wran­gled wheel-less suit­cases.

To­day, most peo­ple hail rides via smart­phone, and hardly any­one car­ries cash

for tips.

Joe D’Alessan­dro, pres­i­dent and CEO of the San Fran­cisco Travel As­so­ci­a­tion, said Sweeney “has been not just an am­bas­sador but the em­bod­i­ment of San Fran­cisco’s spirit — cheer­ful, help­ful, up­beat, wel­com­ing. He made vis­i­tors from around the world feel like in­stant friends.”

This week, Sweeney stood guard out­side the Sir Fran­cis Drake, near Union Square, in his elab­o­rate Bri­tish-style Beefeater jacket and knick­ers, red socks pulled to the knees and black hat dec­o­rated with red and white flow­ers.

The 1928 ho­tel, named for the El­iz­a­bethan-era English ex­plorer, has the cos­tumes for its door­men cus­tom-made. Sweeney’s lat­est gold- and black-trimmed suit cost $3,000 and weighs about 40 pounds.

He tags lug­gage, waves to ca­ble car pas­sen­gers and grins for pho­tos. Ev­ery now and then, Sweeney shoots his sig­na­ture move: a fin­ger snap ac­com­pa­nied by an “Oh, yeah.”

“I love your hat,” says a boy check­ing into the ho­tel with his fam­ily.

“I love the flow­ers around it,” says his sis­ter, car­ry­ing a glit­tery pink back­pack and a doll.


Beefeater door­man Tom Sweeney points up Pow­ell Street while stand­ing Mon­day out­side the Sir Fran­cis Drake Ho­tel in San Fran­cisco. Sweeney, known as a “San Fran­cisco orig­i­nal” and “liv­ing land­mark” re­tires to­day af­ter 43 years.

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