The word "iconic" gets way overused these days — if every other thing is "iconic," what does the word even mean anymore? But I think I can safely say the rotating former Equinox restaurant and bar atop downtown SF's Hyatt Regency, which is about to turn 51 years old, is an iconic piece of the city's hospitality history, and the hotel is bringing it back.

The revolving (or rotating, if you prefer) restaurant has stood still since 2007, when the turntable ground to a halt for the last time during one of the hotel's transitions in ownership. The circular space with 360 degree views of the city and the Bay has more recently been used as The Regency Club — an upsell for hotel guests that gives them access to free breakfasts and a happy hour with a view up there.

As hotel manager Matt Humphreys explained several weeks ago, in the video below for Hospitality Daily, an engineer at the hotel who is getting ready to retire suggested to him last year that they try to get the thing rotating just one last time. This led to a couple failed attempts — the motors turned on but nothing wanted to move — and to some remodeling that had to occur because tile and other things had been installed with the assumption that the turntable would never move again.

Equinox, back in the day, functioned like a carousel — the outer ring of the restaurant rotated while the central section remained fixed. This, anecdotally, led to guests going to the bathroom and then losing track of their tables, because they had moved. The turntable took 50 minutes to complete a full rotation, and as Humphreys explained, it ultimately was a money-losing enterprise for the hotel, because guests would linger to take in the views, and there weren't enough tables for it to turn a profit.

The restaurant opened with the hotel in 1973. Architect John Portman, who also designed Embarcadero Center and Los Angeles's Bonaventure Hotel, said he was inspired by a 1935 sci-fi film called Things to Come, and the hotel's dramatic angles, glass elevators, and towering lobby — still considered the largest in the world, per Guinness — reflect a sleek and futuristic take on 60s/70s brutalism.

Rotating restaurants were a bit of a trend for city landmarks in the era — Seattle's Space Needle, opened in 1962, has one that is now known as Loupe Lounge, and Portman installed another atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, which was completed three years after SF's Hyatt Regency. And San Francisco's Equinox became a legendary tourist attraction, with long lines in the lobby of waiting guests.

Humphreys says in that video that tourists still regularly come into the hotel asking if they can go up to the rotating bar, and are disappointed to hear it's closed to the public and no longer rotates.

But all that is changing! The Chronicle reported today — and Humphreys revealed in the video — that work has been ongoing to get the turntable spinning again. Staff Engineer Dennis Alcaire has been oiling the gears and the series of 200 8-inch wheels that sit beneath the rotating dining platform. And one night last year, he tells the Chronicle, after using hydraulics to crank the turntable out of its rut, he flipped the motor on and the floor began turning once more — and experience he compares to "waking a dinosaur."

"It had just been sitting too long," Alcaire tells the Chronicle. "It got comfortable in that position and didn’t want to move.

Humphreys tells Hospitality Daily that the hotel made a tidy profit on the Regency Club upsell last year, and now they figure they'll reinvest some of that in getting this fanciful icon of a space rotating again, and see if it doesn't attract more hotel stays.

Tonight, Hyatt hotel guests who pay the $100 extra for Regency Club access will get exclusive access to the soft reopening of the rotating bar. The grand reopening will coincide with the hotel's 51st birthday, on May 1. And the Chronicle reports that the public will have a chance to get in sometime later, as a ticketed happy hour experience that will be called Club Revolve.

Below, see a sped-up video from the 1980s of the bar rotating past the city skyline — with what appears to be a mannequin sitting at that table?

Top image via Yelp