When I received the news on Instagram from the official Wicked Grounds account that the business would be shutting down its kink cafe, I was immediately gutted. It was pure disbelief. I found myself in a loop, reading and re-reading the update on the organization’s Instagram repeatedly, trying to make sense of it all.
It couldn’t possibly be true. I willed for it to be wrong somehow. My friends and I had dreamt of this safe haven for so long, excitedly sharing posts from others before us who were fortunate enough to patron the cafe. I couldn’t bear the thought of being torn away from its familiar walls and the vibrant community. A community I had only just begun to discover.
A veritable safe haven for the unique, the strange, the seemingly unconventional. Wicked Grounds was the promise of acceptance and belonging among people who recognized and understood you in a society where such unconditional, revolutionary acceptance was and remains so wholly foreign. It offered the opportunity to mingle, learn more about the diverse world of kink, and meet potentially like-minded folx in a safe, relaxed setting.
At Wicked Grounds There Is Immediate Comfortability
While I have been involved in the kink scene for a good while now, up until my move to the San Francisco Bay area, I never had the joy of exploring the scene and meeting fellow community members in person. While those opportunities may have existed in some of the places I lived previously, I didn’t feel quite prepared to make that leap and I see now that Wicked Grounds really made it possible for me to take that risk.
A space where I could just stop in for a moment and unwind with their signature kitty espresso milkshake, reassured by the accessibility of electrical outlets and a clean restroom.
The Wicked Grounds cafe and event space was that safe, inviting place for new and old community members alike to go and be. I valued the variety of options that the space offered. From their educational classes and spank labs to the boutique which offered a wide selection of curated BDSM and kink titles like Erotic Slavehood, by Christina Abernathy, as well as their social events, such as the monthly Friday Film Buff movie nights, Wicked Grounds seemingly offered it all.
Wicked Grounds Has Created a Sense of Community
I remember the first time I visited the Café, just before closing one warm spring evening. I remember the lavender Italian soda they served to me in a silver dog bowl and how appreciatively I had slurped its purple goodness up. I remember the nerves I felt right before my first munch. The anxiety and worry that no one would like me or accept me into the group. Then the excitement and joy at discovering how inviting, friendly, and warm everyone was. People I had never met. We played board games, made arts and crafts together, and shared stories and perspectives.
It was then that I knew I had found true belonging among people who were similarly motivated to form connections and build relationships.
A few weeks prior to the Café announcement, I had actually gone in person and attended a Film Buff movie night, a screening of The Handmaiden, one of my personal favorite lesbian erotic thrillers. When I entered the cafe, I was struck by how different everything appeared. The old beat-up couches and funky bondage x electric type chairs were not in their usual places. The back tables were blocked off, along with the cafe’s ordering counter. To the left of the doorframe, there was a single wooden table where moviegoers could buy concessions. I noticed the retail shelves were pushed forward and more prominent, while the remaining eclectic furniture faded into the foreground.
I thought it was all particularly odd, but I assured myself that perhaps these changes were just temporary and probably in place to make the movie night simpler. Maybe the owners didn’t want milkshakes up in the annex during the screening. That seemed plausible.
After the event, I approached an employee at the concessions stand to inquire about the Café. They shared with me that the owner had decided to move away from food services and focus their efforts on rebranding the organization as a retail space, but that many of the employees were hoping the decision would be rescinded.
As they told me all of this, I could see they were visibly saddened by the decision. I got the impression that this change happened quite suddenly with little notification to either the patrons or the employees alike.
Café Gone Not Wicked Grounds
The good news is that Wicked Grounds will not be completely gone. The owner has decided to transition the organization into a more retail-oriented space but to also keep online classes going, which means that community involvement and exploration are still possible. The workers of the cafe have formed a union, calling for support from the community they have given so much to.
I will link a resource here where readers may learn more about the union and what they can do to help.
I will continue attending online classes and events with Wicked Grounds, as well as trying to find safe spaces to continue connecting with the special interest groups I met through Wicked Grounds who will now have to search for other event venues. While the cafe may be closed, I certainly hope this isn’t the end.
My wish is to see Wicked Grounds remain a stable force in the community, cherished for lifetimes to come yet, giving voice to many. Until Wicked Grounds is gone for good, they have my unwavering support, as do the workers and fellow patrons who make up this beautiful community.