Sir Francis Drake Hotel doorman retiring after 43 years in San Francisco

The beginning of a new decade marks the end of an era for a doorman who's been a fixture at San Francisco's Union Square for more than four decades. 

Tom Sweeney, a native of the city, is preparing to retire. His vibrant personality has charmed hotel guests, passers-by and even world leaders at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. 

For 43 years, Sweeney has put on a beefeater's uniform to work at his job.

He's ready to end what he describes as a wonderful ride. 

As he started his shift Thursday afternoon, he greeted a cable car operator as the cable car passed the front of the hotel. He told the operator he was retiring and the operator offered his congratulations. 

In 1976, the 19-year-old Sweeney put on the beefeater uniform for the first time.   

He said he had been accepted into the San Francisco Fire and Police departments, but soon discovered opening doors at the hotel, opened the door to a whole new world.

"[I’ve] shaken hands with seven presidents. [I] get a call from the White House to hang around with Tony Blair, the prime minister. He's with President Bush. The next day, I'm with him. How many jobs does that happen at?" said Sweeney.

In 1982, Sweeney received a commendation from then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein after he tackled two thieves trying to steal luggage.

That heroic act led to other opportunities including acting in a movie and a soap opera.

He became the face of the hotel.

"I'm on luggage tags. I'm on postcards," said Sweeney. 

At 62-years-old, he said he's ready to spend more time with his family, run marathons and do volunteer work.   

"Times are changing. [With] Uber and Lyft, you don't have to get as many cabs as you used to. Kids 40 and under don't carry cash anymore. It's time to go," said Sweeney.  

A fellow doorman said Sweeney has an ever-present smile that's genuine and that he's learned a lot from him.   

"He doesn't have a turn on-turn off button. He's the same way every time and that's pretty hard to do," said Laban Wade, who's been a doorman at Sir Francis Drake for two decades.  

"To have somebody so welcoming after you've had a long flight, particularly if you're jet-lagged. We'll be sorry to see Tom go," said Jacklyn Mason who works for the British Consulate, which books the hotels for events. 
Tom Sweeney will officially check out of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel Sunday, after making his mark in San Francisco history. 

"It's amazing. It feels like it just went like that," said Sweeney as he described his 43 years meeting and greeting locals and visitors from all over the world.