The tourists packing the lobby to check into one of the hotel’s 1,200 rooms have almost entirely vanished. The locals visiting for a cocktail aren’t venturing out much these days. Nobody’s uttering that famous San Francisco phrase, “Meet me at the clock!” and finding their date for the evening at the hotel’s huge timepiece.

Wandering around the eerily empty St. Francis Hotel on San Francisco’s Union Square the other day sparked memories of a joyful, thriving city, but was also somewhat depressing.

The glass elevator had the same stunning views of the city skyline, but it was a lonely ride. To see one of the city’s oldest, most glamorous hotels looking like a ghost town — particularly on the top floor’s ballroom where nobody’s danced in a long time — was a reminder of how far San Francisco must travel to return to any semblance of normal.


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