“Not enough adults get the chance to believe in make-believe. Remember how cool make-believe was when you were a little kid? We make that happen for adults,” says Mir Bilodeau, co-owner of Wicked Grounds.
Nestled in the heart of SoMa's leather district is San Francisco’s fetish cafe. At Eighth and Folsom, an intersection of diverse subcultures, Wicked Grounds prides itself on radical inclusion of all customers, identities and kinksters as it aims to be a welcoming space for personal exploration, the BDSM community, and dark dark roasts.
Founded in 2009 by Ryan Galiotto, founder of Kinkbnb, the coffee house sprang up just before Folsom Street Fair that year. In 2014, the ownership changed to Bilodeau, who now manages Wicked Grounds with a staff of 12.
Wicked Grounds hosts educational events ranging from sex education to “dating while kinky” to consent practices, as well as a plethora of "munches," or casual gatherings. Nearly every intersection with kink can be found here: suspension munches, female dom munches, meditative movement munches, a kinky entrepreneurs munch and rope munches. The last of which garners upwards of 40 people per event.
There are also munches for trans men and women, which strive to create a vital safe space for the transgender community. Folks from all walks of life come to Wicked Grounds to take part in these events, and, in the most stripped-down way, just be themselves.
In recent years, the SoMa neighborhood has shifted dramatically from the playful BDSM warehouse parties shaping the '80s and '90s, to spaces for scrappy startups and tech innovation. From the outside, this culture clash seems threatening to older subcultures of the area.
Yet, when you enter the rope- and whip-lined walls of the Eighth Street cafe, the customers represent all types of Bay Area identities, including tech workers. Bilodeau says they’ve been blessed to be in a neighborhood that respects them. “The tech companies in this neighborhood have been our peeps ... Without tech, this place doesn’t exist.”
‘Coffee, Kink, and Community’ is the mantra of the cafe, which also aims educates new neighborhood residents on the subversive history that defines SoMa and so much of counterculture San Francisco.
Bilodeau says it's clear that perceptions of the BDSM community change regularly, as new and old customers walk through the door. “People think we’re big scary domly people. No, we’re just people that like make-believe.”
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