The threat to San Francisco gay spaces continues with the news that Cafe Flore, the iconic restaurant that has operated in the Castro since 1973, is up for sale. The asking price is set at $450,000.
The news comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that The Stud, a classic SoMa gay bar, would be displaced by a 300 percent rent increase from building's new owners. According to owner Stu Gerry, the landlord (who is one of his three partners) plans to retain the multiple liquor licenses associated with the business, which is part of why the price seems so low. Real estate deals in San Francisco aren't exactly simple, but here's the general idea: the business is for sale (not the land), which includes use of the liquor licenses with the lease, as well as everything that comprises Cafe Flore. That includes the name, though Gerry and his partners will not require the next operator of the restaurant to keep the name or concept.
"It could be something else entirely," said Gerry, who purchased the cafe with his partners two years ago. Since then, they have done a lot of work towards renovating the aging building, and bringing it back up to code. However, Gerry says they just don't have the capital to complete the job, which is why Cafe Flore is up for sale. "I don't want to be the one to bury Cafe Flore," said Gerry.
"We are very concerned about what it means for the gay community, and it would be great if the buyer wanted to keep it the same, but great doesn't go very far in San Francisco right now."
Gerry also cited the changing demographics and tech influence as part of what is troubling business owners throughout the city. As a commercial real estate agent and owner of multiple restaurants, he's intimately acquainted with the struggles faced by new and old businesses alike. "When we bought Cafe Flore, it was our singular goal to save it," said Gerry. "We just don't have the capital to take it all the way."
For all the inevitable sadness that will accompany this news, Gerry says "Thousands of people have had their first date there, or gone there as a kid, and it matters what they think. We'd love to see it continue, but we need someone else to come in and finish the job." And, given the way the partners have set up terms of the sale, there are many ways to save Cafe Flore, including purchasing a percentage of the business and keeping some or all of the partners on as consultants.
Here’s hoping whoever buys it wants to preserve a piece of Castro history. Interested? Check out the official listing for more information.