With its grand dining room and 12th floor bar with views of Downtown and SoMa, Virgin Hotels San Francisco officially opened on Fourth Street with a red-carpet gala last evening.
San Francisco is a fabulous place — reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated — but it doesn’t often play host to events with a New York or L.A-style glamour. For good or for ill, the spate of new hotels, bars-within-hotels, and otherwise ultraluxe openings have brought a bit of that. We know, we know: It’s a symptom of the outrageous affluence that affects us.
But last night was really fun.
Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entertainment mogul and founder of Virgin Group whose surname also happens to be the Christian equivalent of Las Vegas, rolled up a little before 8 p.m. in a Burning Man art car full of drag queens and assorted beefcake. (One guy looked like an extra from Mad Max: Fury Road, which was sexy as hell but in a crowded party those shoulder plates probably made him like the guy on a crowded 14-Mission whose backpack knocks your phone out of your hand.) The jovial Branson wore a red military jacket that was probably intended to evoke Sgt. Pepper but also looked a little bit like late-in-life Michael Jackson. Preceding him was a conspicuous body double.
Once inside, Branson spoke briefly, encouraging everyone to have a good time. Two or three glasses of Moët deep, SF Weekly foolishly thought we were getting a picture of Sir Richard and his body double, but it turned out they were both doubles, and more like entertainment than security. Whoops. Glad that one went on our personal page.
Lance Bass, whose sincere attempt to be a cosmonaut may have endeared him to Branson’s Virgin Galactic space airline, was there in a very spiffy jacket, and so were Ashlee Simpson and her husband, Evan Ross. Jonathan Goldsmith, Dos Equis’ now-former Most Interesting Man in the World was present, as were Dave Chappelle, still in town after his intervention on behalf of the Punch Line, and one of the sisters from L.A. ’80s revival band HAIM.
Boldface names notwithstanding, it was a seriously opulent party. Beyond Everdene, the 12th floor bar with the view that’s named after a Thomas Hardy character, there were seemingly infinite other bars, pouring infinite Champagne and specialty cocktails, plus an assembly line of a sushi bar that got so crowded security had to restrict access to the ground floor for a spell. There, a women stood up at least twice on the bar and poured tequila directly into (willing) people’s mouths, Coyote Ugly-style. (We had not seen something like that happen in real life since approximately 2002.)
Directly across from YBCA, this particular Virgin has a bunch of other elements that should keep it on S.F. residents’ radar. (You don’t need to be staying there, in other words.) For one, there’s a Funny Library Coffee Shop, a partnership between Virgin and actor Hugh Jackman serving fair trade Laughing Man coffee. And Commons Club, the ground-floor restaurant, has major style points, from the floor to the chandeliers. We might never have a sleep over in this “192-chamber” hotel, but Virginity sounded looked so appealing.
Virgin Hotels San Francisco, 250 Fourth St., 415-534-6545 or virginhotels.com/san-francisco/