The Castro’s Cafe Flore was the rarest of San Francisco beasts: a spot where tourists, passersby, and daily regulars would drink and dine side by side. But now its sunny dining room is empty and its outdoor seats are unoccupied, as the 47-year-old San Francisco venue closed quietly over the holidays, Hoodline reports.
The odd-shaped, 954-square-foot restaurant at the corner of Market and Noe streets first opened in 1973, and changed hands many times over the years. In 2016, co-owner Stu Gerry placed the business on the market, telling Eater SF at the time that he lacked the capital to make upgrades necessary to keep the building code compliant.
“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,” Gerry said at the time, saying, “I don’t want to be the one to bury Cafe Flore.”
Gerry and his partners eventually sold to Terrance Alan and Aaron Silverman in 2017, though he retained a minority state in the business. The pair, who Hoodline says “met while doing marijuana advocacy work in California...shared a vision of a place where customers could enjoy marijuana together while socializing over food and drinks.” Cafe Flore would be their first effort in the food industry.
Soon after the purchase, Silverman and Alan (who has also served as the chairman of SF’s Cannabis State Legalization Task Force) announced that the spot would be renamed Flore and would become “San Francisco’s first cannabis cafe.”
A barrier to that dream is that California law presently prohibits businesses that sell alcohol from also selling cannabis. For Alan and Silverman’s plan — which included incorporating cannabis into food and drinks “in ways we may not have even thought about yet” — the business would either have to dump the sure thing that is alcohol sales, or put its pot menu dreams on hold.
Instead, Alan and Silverman sought — and received — approval for a dispensary across the street. Business at Cafe Flore, ahem, “Flore,” continued with the same daily happy hours and packed brunches that guests have enjoyed for decades. On weekdays, its indoor tables were dotted with laptops and its outdoor tables were dotted with backpacked tourists. “Is it true that Anne Rice wrote Interview With The Vampire here?” servers continued to be asked (most servers say “yes,” and it’s true, the restaurant is prominently featured in Rice’s extremely problematic novel Belinda).
Within recent months, however, the business reportedly started to contract. Hoodline reports that Flore was closed on Mondays through Wednesdays, and that its menu was reduced to baked goods, drinks, and panini. Then, over the holidays, it remained dark even on the weekend — and according to Hoodline, general manager Luke Bruner confirmed the restaurant had shuttered.
Bruner declined to provide any details, but according to a sign posted outside, “all winter long” the restaurant’s “greenhouse event space” will be “open for special events.” The only event on its roster so far appears to be a “re-elect [State Senator] Scott Wiener” party planned for 10-11 a.m. this Saturday. After that, Flore will join the long list of vacant restaurants in Wiener’s former district, including Finn Town, Firewood Cafe and Papi Rico.