Moss Beach Distillery
It is officially designated as a California Point of Historical Interest. Originally established in 1927 as a speakeasy, it converted into a successful restaurant after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
This historic restaurant has been a favorite ocean view restaurant for many people worldwide. Guests have marveled at the view of the Pacific Ocean while enjoying the Distillery's steak & seafood cuisine. The back of the restaurant, overlooking the ocean, holds a dog-friendly patio and large firepits for their patrons. The restaurant also provides a doggie menu that is specifically designed for dogs featuring mini burgers and grilled hot dogs.
Awards & Publications
- VIA Magazine Features the Moss Beach Distillery as a Member Favorite Destination Restaurant
- Reader's Choice Half Moon Bay Review 2014: #1 Best Happy Hour, #1 Best place to Watch Sunsets, #1 Most Romantic
- Bay Area A List: #1 Best Waterfront Dining, #1 Best Romantic Restaurant
- OpenTable Diners: One of the Top Scenic View Restaurants in America
- VIA Magazine Lists the Moss Beach Distillery Among 16 Best Pet Destinations in the West
- CNN Travel: "Five Fido-friendly getaways"
- Thrillist's 10 Restaurants Where Dogs are Served Steak, Beer, and Ice Cream
- Sunset Magazine: Northern California Editor's Picks
During Prohibition, the San Mateo Coast was an ideal spot for rum running, bootleggers and “speakeasies,” establishments which sold illegal booze to thirsty clients. The Moss Beach Distillery as it appeared in its early days. One of the most successful speakeasies of the era was “Frank’s Place” on the cliffs at Moss Beach. Built by Frank Torres in 1927, “Frank’s” became a popular nightspot for silent film stars and politicians from the City. Mystery writer Dashiell Hammett frequented the place and used it as a setting for one of his detective stories.
The restaurant, located on the cliff, above a secluded beach was a perfect location to benefit from the clandestine activities of Canadian rum-runners. Under cover of darkness and fog, illegal whiskey was landed on the beach, dragged up a steep cliff and loaded into waiting vehicles for transport to San Francisco. Some of the booze always found its way into the garage beneath “Frank’s Place.” Frank Torres used his excellent political and social connections to operate a highly successful, if illegal, business. Unlike many of the other speakeasies along the coast, “Frank’s Place” was never raided.
With the repeal of the prohibition in 1933 Frank Torres remained in the food service business as one of the most successful restaurateurs along the San Mateo County coastside. “Frank’s Place” now called THE MOSS BEACH DISTILLERY still retains its spectacular view and secluded location above the ocean coves.
The Distillery also retains one of “Frank’s” former customers, as well. Its resident ghost, "The Blue Lady” is thought to still haunt the premises, trying to recapture the romance and excitement of “Frank’s” speakeasy years. The story of The Blue Lady was documented by the TV program "Unsolved Mysteries", and has been seen by millions of people around the world.
History behind the Haunting
The Moss Beach Distillery is well known for its famous ghost, "The Blue Lady", and the popular NBC TV series Unsolved Mysteries recreated a haunting version of "The Legend Of The Blue Lady" and presented it to the world.
According to the ghostly Coastside legend, some 72 years ago a beautiful, Mary Ellen, then a beautiful young woman who always loved blue dresses met a handsome piano player named John Contina in a local bar. She was already married and had a young son named Jack but the two soon began a torrid romance.
The lovers met for romantic moonlit walks on the beach and trysts at the Marine View Hotel which was located next to the Distillery overlooking the cliffs. We don't know for sure how long the romance lasted but the romance ended tragically on a stormy November night when Mary Ellen died in a horrific automobile accident on the old Bayshore Highway.
The Lady in Blue wasn't the only death surrounding the piano playing casanova. At the time he was having an affair with Mary Ellen, unbeknownst to her he was also having an affair with another local woman by the name of Anna Philbrick. The second woman however, discovered his deceit and flung herself off the cliffs near the Distillery, drowning in the kelp beds below.
Contina's own life ended in tragedy when his body was found decapitated and washed ashore near the distillery. Perhaps a jealous husband found out about Contina's lecherous ways and took revenge. We will likely never know.
It is said that over the years the ghosts of the Moss Beach Distillery have made themselves known in many ways. Many working and visiting the location have experienced objects moved or moving on their own, lights turned off or on unexpectedly and whispered voices in their ear or taps on the shoulders when in unoccupied rooms.
One of the most famous reported incidents involving the Lady in Blue involved two San Mateo County Sheriff officers who in 1978 were involved in the first séance to raise the spirits haunting the distillery. The séance was uneventful and the men felt a little foolish having partaken in such a, what they considered, silly activity. After leaving the Distillery the two drove up Highway 92 and somehow veered off the road into a ditch. Neither officer was injured but both were sent to the hospital for observation. Later, a Highway Patrolman who had responded to the incident called to check in on the officers. They assured him that they were both ok but were quite surprised when the patrolman asked what had happened to the lady dressed in blue who was at the accident!
It is also said that the ghosts are not without their playful side. During the mid 80's the Distillery stored wine in a room with a single door and no windows. The door opened into the storage room. Late one night one of the employees went to get some wine from the room. Pushing on the door he found that it would not budge no matter how hard he tried. Calling for assistance from some of the larger men employed at the restaurant they managed to open the door, enough for a man to enter. What they discovered seemed impossible. All the wine had been neatly stacked up against the door. An impossible feat for anyone to perform and escape.
This playful side was amply evident to former owners, Pat and Dave Andrews. When they owned the Distillery they often found themselves locked out of their basement rooms from the inside. They said the Blue Lady was also fond of turning on the shower and moving furniture in the middle of the night. Often she could be heard walking around the dining room in the hours before dawn before they finally carpeted the floor.
In addition; There have been reports of children being warned away from the edges of cliffs by a lady dressed in blue. It's said that she called to them in a whisper, telling them to be careful and stay away. Other children have reported seeing her in darkened rooms. Still others have seen her in the men's room on to disappear when adults come to investigate.
One particularly strange reported incident happened a number of years ago when the point of sale computer system apparently contracted a "virus" that caused all the dates to show as 1927. 1927 was the year the business first opened as "Frank's Place". The company who installed the system quickly sent a technician to reset the date but could not find any cause for the mysterious date change.
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