California’s bed and breakfast beacon lures adventurous restaurateurs

It is the job posting that would catch the attention of any adventure seeker.

A bed and breakfast with a working lighthouse accommodates two experienced innkeepers who can cook, clean and operate a ferry. The catch: The job is on a one-acre island in San Francisco Bay, separated from the city by about 10 miles of choppy ocean.

As daunting as it sounds, the job postings have historically attracted applicants from around the world, including Russia, China and Italy. And applications are accepted again.

As part of the job, restaurateurs receive a health insurance plan and two weeks of vacation time, including room and board. Previous innkeepers made about $140,000 annually, split between two people.

One of the applicants must have a current U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license and applicants must commit to East Brother Light Station in Richmond, California for a minimum of two years, according to the job listing.

The captain’s license is usually the biggest hurdle for applicants, said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, founder of the nonprofit that manages the bed-and-breakfast operation.

Four days a week, innkeepers entertain guests, conduct tours, change linens and, most importantly, cook a good meal.

“It’s an important part of the experience,” Butt said. “No one should apply for the position unless they are willing to work hard for at least a few years.”

Applicants must apply together if they want to throw their hats in the ring. The 1-hectare island features a working lighthouse built in 1873. The lighthouse was intended to help sailors navigate San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, but the site fell into disrepair in 1969 when the light and fog signal was automated. About a decade later, preservationists attempted to save and restore the site, Butt said.

Over the years, hundreds of conservation volunteers have worked to restore the site. It’s necessary to generate revenue to ensure the site doesn’t decay again, Butt said. That’s when the idea of ​​a working bed and breakfast came into play.

Depending on the economy, the operation sees a steady stream of visitors who can enjoy scenic views of the San Francisco skyline from a one-of-a-kind vantage point. A stay on the island costs between $475 and $525 per night in a quaint two-story Victorian home. Upkeep on the island is handled by the non-profit organization, but innkeepers are expected to maintain the bed-and-breakfast and all that entails.

Innkeepers are expected to wear multiple hats, and while it might sound like a daunting role, the job ad went viral around 2019. Applicants came from all over the world. The nonprofit ended up with about 60 qualified candidates, Butt said.

During the pandemic, operations were closed for about a year and a half. The nonprofit hoped to be inundated with innkeeper candidates once the hiring window reopened, but instead the group received no viable candidates. The group was forced to hire experienced restaurateurs to fill the posts last year.

Butt is hoping two persistent, qualified young applicants can take on the jobs this spring.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for younger people, to make some money and save,” Butt said.

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