History of Tom Ham


Tom Ham loved adventure. A renowned amateur historian and UCLA graduate, he came to San Diego in 1955 to build his dream. After turning Bali Hai, a struggling Shelter Island restaurant at the time, into a vibrant success, he turned his passion for great experiences toward a new venture: the Lighthouse.

It all began with a walk along Shelter Island. Tom foresaw a booming future for San Diego and envisioned a restaurant fit to savor the view for years to come.

Perhaps it was the charm of a functioning beacon along the property or just his love for ambitious projects that drew him in, in either case Tom found the perfect place to build his next dream. He infused his love of California history and adventure into the design of his restaurant, shaping it in the form of the state itself and incorporating the working Beacon #9 into the design with his very own fog bell.

Now one of San Diego’s most recognized architectural landmarks, Tom’s legacy lives on. Today, his children run the restaurant and pursue Tom’s vision of capturing the California spirit with excellent dining, exceptional service, and unforgettable experiences.

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Tom Ham arrives in San Diego. Fresh out of UCLA he rescues Bali Hai, a Shelter Island Restaurant struggling to make ends meet, and turns it into a success.

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Tom served as chairmen for San Diego’s 200th anniversary celebration.

Tom Hams ariel view

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse opens in 1971. Drawing guests in from across the county with eye-catching views and big-band entertainment.

Outside of building with palm trees

The family carries on the business after Tom’s passing.

Group of people in san diego by the ocean

The restaurant undergoes a full renovation guided by the late architect, Graham Downes building upon Tom’s original vision. The first floor is turned into an event space and the seaside dinning patio is added.

Family Heritage

Tom created a tradition of passionate restauranteurs.  Suzie, his daughter, serves as CEO with Tom’s grandsons serving as general managers, overseeing daily operations and instilling the values Tom passed on within the life of our restaurants.