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Head engineer at San Francisco's Mark Hopkins Hotel promises to keep the "Squadron Bottle" tradition alive

The military tradition of the "Squadron Bottle" thriving at the Top of the Mark
The military tradition of the "Squadron Bottle" thriving at the Top of the Mark 04:01

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Bay Area welcomes service members to town to celebrate fleet week, some of them may raise a glass for a special toast at one of San Francisco's most iconic bars: the Top of the Mark.

On the 19th story of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel sits a portal in time. It is a window into the deep-rooted military tradition of the "Squadron Bottle" and a peek into their ongoing honor. 

"Anybody, not just a soldier, can come in here and purchase a bottle. And they usually leave a note so that for the next person, the next person gets a free shot," Mark Hopkins Director Of Engineering Steven Solari told CBS News Bay Area. "And once that bottle is empty, the only caveat is that the last person to take the last shot purchases the next bottle. So as you can see, there's a lot left to drink here."

ALSO READ: Bay Area military tradition of the 'Squadron Bottle' revived at Top of the Mark

Solari says these bottles are more than a tradition; they are a reminder of his service and the history of service in San Francisco. 

"A lot of emotions. It usually comes through like this annually," he explained. "You know, like hearing the Star Spangled Banner play; like hearing the roar of a Blue Angels jet, knowing that you used to be part of that. Being at the Top of the Mark Hopkins, I kind of feel that this is where I'm meant to be."

Inside a locked cabinet sits dozens of liquor bottles, some opened, some sealed shut. But all with handwritten notes from those who purchased them, and a wish for a living or fallen service member. 

"This is what this means to me," Solari said as he looked at the bottles. "Every single thing you hear people sharing in honor of anybody, their soldier, their son, their wife. Whoever it may be."

During World War II the Top of the Mark served as a gathering place for people to watch their loved ones head off to war. 

"To know that this marble or you know these window frames, there's a picture over here of the guy cleaning the windows. Knowing that this was the area where they were going strikes me as very important," said Solari.

For the San Francisco native, it's a reminder of his own past as an Army paratrooper. 

"When I see the young soldiers and sailors walking around town, it kind of reminds me of my youth," Solari explained. "I know how important it is for them to be here."

The Squadron Bottle tradition was temporarily lost after World War II, but saw a revival in 2009. And Solari says it's here to stay. 

"I do not think this will go away again," he explained. "And we have tons of these bottles that are empty that we store and that we bring out for certain occasions like this week. This will never go away, especially during my tenure."

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