S.F.’s beloved Beefeater doorman to retire
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
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.