On Sunday, fetish-themed SoMa cafe Wicked Grounds announced that it had closed for regular business the evening before. Expecting a few calls and emails from distraught patrons, owner Mir Bilodeau and her cafe manager weren’t prepared for what turned out to be an even more taxing shift.
“We had our single biggest revenue day in Wicked Grounds history,” she tells SF Weekly. “Almost double the revenue of a Folsom Street Fair day.”
People asked her what it would take to stay open, and the answer was a Patreon campaign by which ordinary patrons could commit to monthly giving to help Wicked Grounds stay open. Bilodeau relaunched one on Monday, and within 32 hours, it had exceeded her expectations — which were not high.
“We’d been trying to introduce this as a revenue stream without success,” she says, “and I put it out there and said, ‘Look, if people had the resources to do, this they would have already — but if you really want to help, here’s how.’ ”
Good news, sure, but also the kind of development that makes a certain segment of the population shake its head. After all, a for-profit business asking for free money to stay open sounds like the definition of a failing business. But Wicked Grounds is a lot more than a coffeehouse to many people.
“What I promised people is, if we can exceed that then we will put that into what we always wanted to do: grow the community outreach, the education, partnership with other businesses,” Bilodeau says. “I’ve said for years that we are ‘kink concierges’ first. The real value is not the food and beverage, or even the books and toys. The real value of Wicked Grounds is connecting with people in the community. We set a standard for safe environments. People get into the kink community in ways that are safe and sane and sensual. That’s what makes us different, and the Patreon project is a way that people can contribute to that piece of what we do.”
Like a certain septuagenarian senator’s presidential campaign, Bilodeau wanted a little bit of money from a lot of people rather than a lot of money from a handful of people — lest Wicked Grounds find itself in a similar panic two years from now. Bilodeau sits on the board of the Bay Area Kinky Business Association, which helped spread the word — as did the Bay Area Leather Alliance and various other organizations in the tight-knit fetish and kink community. She hopes that when the forthcoming Leather Cultural District gets up and running, Wicked Grounds can be the coffee kiosk in Eagle Plaza, the pedestrian-only area at the southern tip of 12th Street. But for now, she’s working to get the cafe up and running again. It won’t be long.
“The plan right now is that we’re open for scheduled events through Monday, and we’ll spend a few days making light repair and getting stuff ordered again,” Bilodeau says. “Then we’ll be open for regular hours starting next Tuesday.”
Wicked Grounds, 289 Eighth St., wickedgrounds.com