Wicked Grounds suspended in limbo

The Grounds' calendar of fetish-ful events

Coffee pots and spankings may soon cease to coexist at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s only kink café that announced plans to close last week due to crippling debt. Fans of the sexy space have since pleaded for a chance to help and offered up donations, but instead of accepting the cash with a hungry growl, owners have asked people to hold off and “think about it.”

No this isn’t a clever scheme to rake in even more moola with a big, slutty, pitty party -- owners and husband and wife duo Ryan Galiotto and Rose White want their customers to contemplate other causes that need a boost. This from the Wicked Grounds website:

Please consider what is going on in our community, our country, our world: Bay Area's Lyon Martin, who provide much needed health services to the queer community, is on the brink of closure; STI and HIV/Aids testing, prevention, and research is woefully underfunded; our community has yet to be awarded equal civil rights in so many areas; a series of natural disasters have made those that survived homeless and fighting for even the basics. Wicked Grounds might be an important part of our community, but so much money is needed in other places for even bare necessities.

Wicked Grounds isn’t quite refusing the money -- by no means do they want to lock the doors. “We just want people’s emotions to calm down so they can think about it,” Galiotto says, noting how much they appreciate the community’s show of love. “We’re just trying to be responsible.”


Galiotto getting his hands dirty

The shop has only been open since September 2009 but its honesty and openness has harnessed a whole lot of friends and connected a community of kinks that otherwise may not have mingled, teased and whipped. Over half the evenings in each month are reserved for special munches, themed play parties, and gatherings that welcome both veterans and newbies.

“At first I thought we would just be popular with the leather family,” Galiotto remembers. But their Folsom Street neighbors weren’t the only people who started showing up. Now customers bring in "littles" color pictures to post on the back refrigerator, a submissive group meets to chat and trade secrets; "ponies" stampede around the tables. All kinds of other fetish fans and even your average vanilla folks come in for sober conversation and the beverage of choice -- coffee.

"When you come in here, you don’t have to worry about your neighboring table becoming upset over your topic of conversation. We’re not open for the 'general' public -- just the public.”

And the patrons aren’t the only people having a good time. Steam milk, pull shot, get spanked -- as witnessed on a Monday morning, baristas behind the counter at Wicked Grounds have lots of options for work-related benefits. Galiotto is even supportive of employee hook-ups. “Just sanitize as appropriate,” he laughs. “As long as everything is food safe. Like I always say, we’re all about team building.”


Employees Xin Farrish and Zev Hoffman play at work

Manager Xin Farrish is broken-hearted about the possibility of closure and the elimination of a friendly third space for people to explore new ideas. Wicked Grounds has consistently been a space for education. Last week while Farrish was baking a batch of brownies she watched a visiting Norwegian couple get suspension bondage lessons. She casually comments that "it was cool."

Farrish hopes to pull together a bake sale and is still brainstorming with the other employees and Grounds lovers for fundraising ideas. 

“It’s more of a safe space than a business. We’re not a dungeon, not a shop and not just coffee. And without this space, there will be a big hole in San Francisco.”

Galiotto is now battling a stress-induced cold and coming up with the $100k to save the place seems impossible -- but so does the thought of saying goodbye. The money the couple put into the café could have bought a home and the means with which to start a family, but for him and Rose, a kink café seemed more important.  


Galiotto taking a deserved break

“It would have been selfish for us to just build a cushy home. Yes, [Rose and I] could have made decisions that would have made our life easier,” he says with watery eyes. “But we built a home for a lot of other people.”

Galiotto and White will be making a decision on the future of their kinky love child by the end of the week. 


Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2011 @ 9:57 am

It's a husband and wife that own the place it seems from the article who say...

"our community has yet to be awarded equal civil rights in so many areas;"

Are they saying that the BDSM scene hasn't been awarded it's equal civil rights? Or are they as a married couple claiming some other scene?

Do we need a program where we hire bdsm firefighters in SF?

Posted by matlock on Apr. 04, 2011 @ 11:28 am

I think the rights they mention have to do with things like employment: the right to not get fired because your boss doesn't like your lifestyle, legal rights: like the right to not have your children taken away because of what you do in your bedroom, and to not have your partner arrested for domestic abuse because your neighbors find you unchristian and called the police.

It would be hard to know all the ways that being part of this small community can be used against you without any legal recourse if it isn't part of your life, but far too many people have to hide away entire relationships, achievments (you can't put "I run Folsom street fair" on a resume for example), and associations, not out of shame, but out of fear of losing their job or family.

And that doesn't even get into the polyamory business.

I hope that helps those that want to understand, to understand a little bit :)

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

on what rights are.

People have to hide their BDSM relationships? I thank any imaginary god that may exist that this is the case. Most of us don't want you to involve us in your sex positive life.

Savage love had an interesting thing years ago like this, some dude took his dom to a family event and then whined that his family was pissed. The guy complained that he was in an oppressed class with gays. Savage made the astute observation that gays are likely born that way, while dude was involving everyone in his sexual role playing/fore-play.

It is also odd, in the first paragraph you complain that someone may be persecuted because of what they do in the bedroom, I agree that this is bad, then the next paragraph you complain that you can't take it out of the bedroom and show it off.. So it upsets you that what you do in private can be attacked, then you complain that you cant take your private behavior and show it off to an uptight world? You should have the right to not have people judge you by your hobby and the clubs you join? I wonder if Hells Angels ever feel that way.

I've known some models for Kink.com, I know girls who have done dom work, I have even know some strippers, and have even yucked it up with my friends over their wacky phone sex jobs, so I'm not up tight, I just don't want to know about your sex life and proclivities unless I know you, and then I probably don't want to know.

This is your hobby that happens to involve sex, do other hobbyists have missing rights too?

Posted by matlock on Apr. 05, 2011 @ 12:30 am

So you are saying that since a place that exists for the sex positive that you don't go to, where people can socialize with like-minded types away from you and away from their family that it is as bad as inflicting one's "sexual role playing/fore-play" on the unsuspecting .

This cafe is not family invasion with one's sex life. It's a common ground. The more places like this that thrive, the less people will feel the need to involve you in their "bedroom hobbies"

You imply repression of open sexuality in social contact. Since you are not comfortable with other's sexual proclivities, you are projecting your values on everyone else.

"...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" kind of rights go to all peoples, in this country anyway.

So unless I have misunderstood your opinion, I disagree with you and your logic.

Posted by Vailed Kat on Apr. 07, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

I think the first comment really proves just how important it is for the San Francisco kinky community to have safe spaces like Wicked Grounds to gather. Tell me Mr/Ms Yuck would you rather we spent all our time at you local Starbucks?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

"Are they saying that the BDSM scene hasn't been awarded it's equal civil rights? Or are they as a married couple claiming some other scene?"

Or, perhaps they're saying that there are a number of issues they support and believe in that haven't achieved enough recognition, or further equality, in the civil rights space. Simply because one lives within a particular community or communities (or operates in a "scene" as you state) does not mandate they cannot support other areas that are sorely lacking in such civil rights. Read that same paragraph again, and I hope you'll realize why commenting on only bits and pieces of an article doesn't do you any good - they specifically mention the queer community, HIV/AIDS support, and natural disasters enclosed around the comment you chose to cherry-pick. A "couple" has nothing to do with support in any of those areas, nor does it read that they are suggesting any kink-related scene information as it relates to those comments made.

Ryan - I hope things work out in the end. It's been a while, but you're missed.

Posted by Surma on Apr. 05, 2011 @ 10:49 am

I was just puzzled some, "our community" trends towards belonging to a community.

People in SF glom onto anything, I've known women who have never gender bended but would ride with dykes on bikes and claimed to be part of that "community." In the 90's a girl wanted to borrow my GS to ride in the parade.

When riding around on a motorcycle over the years I've gone to bars where people wearing Harley shirts tell me "if I rode, I would only ride a Harley".

Your reading seems along the same vein, a sort of "I'm into BDSM, which also puts me into the gay community, because some gays are into BDSM, although I'm married to the opposite sex"

The pathology of this sort of thing interests me for some reason.

Posted by maltlock on Apr. 05, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

Dykes on Bikes has absolutely *nothing* to do with 'gender bending' (and I am, admittedly, guessing at precisely what you mean by that, as it's an incredibly outdated and pejorative term). Dykes on Bikes is, and I quote from their own website, a "Women's Motorcycle Contingent", their meetings are open to "any woman" and they support "philanthropic endeavors in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and women's communities and beyond".

Nothing in any of that - or the rest of their website - implies to me that you have to be a 'gender bender' to be involved in Dykes on Bikes. In fact, you don't even have to be a dyke (for which I read 'lesbian'). So, to be a part of that community, you must merely be a woman who rides a motorbike.

Now that I've completely destroyed your reasoning on that point, let me move on to your infallible (ahem) logic that Ryan is somehow saying that he is part of the gay community because he is part of the BDSM community. Nowhere is that implied.

To make this clearer to you, let's assume that you're a white, middle-aged man. Now, let's think about a fairly incontrovertible issue such as human trafficking of women from Eastern Europe for the purposes of sexual slavery. Extending your logic, the conclusion could easily be that if you support the efforts of these women to fight for recognition of their legal (civil) rights, it means you are somehow claiming to be a part of that community, even though are entirely the wrong demographic.

Using the phrase "our community" and "equal rights" in the way that it was could mean precisely what "Guest" in the comment titled "Civil Rights" very eloquently explained. Or the meaning of "our community" could just as easily refer to the wider community that patronizes Wicked Grounds, that is people from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, transsexual, queer, sex-positive, kink, Leather, BDSM, porn, local, vanilla, poly, gamer, hacker, foodie, vegan, and sober communities, and everything in between and beyond. The "Wicked Grounds Community" if you like.

And as to your comment that ""our community" trends towards belonging to a community." Well, yes. Any first-year anthropology major will tell you that it is a basic human imperative to belong to a community, to connect to people with similar interests, hobbies, and yes, sexual proclivities. You could argue that your commenting on this post makes you part of the "SF Bay Guardian Online Community". In a city that can treat its residents as roughly as San Francisco can, community that comes with it a sense of belonging regardless of what your background, your tastes, your practices, is what makes this city so special. And Wicked Grounds is part of that special something.

Posted by LegalFlower on Apr. 06, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

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