Have you ever been to a coffee shop that’ll serve your order in a dog bowl? Or one with a menu section that caters to ageplay-loving littles?

Neither had I until I hit up Wicked Grounds Kink Cafe & Boutique, downtown San Francisco’s local BDSM bistro. "Wicked," as it’s fondly known within the community, serves the fetish scene as a hub for classes, munches, workshops and other events. They have great healthy food, coffee and free wifi for us wandering remote-worker types. In addition, they've got a boutique stocked with gear, toys and a wide selection of enticing books on sexuality.

As a BDSM lover walking into Wicked for the first time, I got the sense that I'd found my people. The vibe was welcoming, inclusive, safe and empowering. I recently got in touch with the business' media director to chat about the shop and how its staff is working to bring Bay Area kinksters together.

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Coffee grinder at Wicked Grounds in San Francisco
Source: Wicked Grounds

Molly: When did Wicked Grounds open and what’s the concept behind the business?

WG: Wicked Grounds opened in 2009 right before that year’s Folsom Street Fair. Absolute perfect timing, really.

As for why Wicked Grounds opened, or stays open against all odds, that’s a harder question. The goals of the café have changed and adapted with time and ownership changes. The Wicked Grounds that stands today is dedicated to being a safe place for people to express and explore themselves. From fetish to identity, Wicked Grounds is a place to find education, community and a great cup of coffee.

Molly: What can first-timers to Wicked Grounds expect when they visit? Is there anything special they should know in advance?

WG: Hahaha. I love this question so much. I think people have high expectations of any kink space, but especially of Wicked Grounds. It’s very cinematic to imagine walking through the doors and seeing someone in gimp gear tied to a chair, human puppies running around, or full leather-clad baristas. OK, well, some of that does happen. But on most days we get a lot of the office folks coming in for lunch, people playing board games, and more than a few dates/negotiations happening.

My advice for someone coming in for the first time is to first check the calendar to see if there’s a meetup that might be of interest. Or, if you’re not ready for a munch, just come on in. Check us out. We’re not scary, I promise.

Wicked Grounds San Francisco
Some of the kinky wares at Wicked Grounds
Source: Wicked Grounds

Molly: Wicked Grounds is obviously much more than just a cafe with sexy coffee and tasty food. How does the business serve as a hub for SF's kink community and why is this important to the WG team?

WG: You’re absolutely right. We tend to be the first trip for many people looking to get into the kink scene. All the baristas are “kink concierges,” as we’re fond of saying. We know what’s going on, and what parties and spaces we would recommend. It could be something as simple as finding event calendars, or as involved as rope care for different textures.

We’re also a space for groups to meet up. The in-café calendar is full of munches and skill shares. We have rope meetups, crafting clubs, spirituality groups and Society of Janus has their Newcomer’s Crash Course in the café. It’s humbling, honestly. We get to see so many people grow and become comfortable with their identities or kink-craft.

Molly: How do you think Wicked Grounds helps contribute to the Bay Area's standing as one of the world's main meccas of kink?

WG: There aren’t a lot of places like us in the world. So many munches are held in the back of chain restaurants in hushed tones. It’s different here. There’s more freedom. Want to ease a new partner into kink? We’re a friendly place to sit with a coffee or sandwich and really talk in a non-intimidating environment. Want to sip a tea and get some work done with your gimp tied to a chair next to you? Go for it!

Like so many mainstays of the community, we’re also involved with developing the LGBTQ+ and Leather Cultural District in SoMa, San Francisco. Keeping the history of the leather district alive in the face of San Francisco’s rapid gentrification is one of our ambitions.

Molly: What kinds of kinky activities and events does WG allow inside the space that you wouldn't find at other cafes?

WG: I can’t be 100% sure of this, but I don’t think there are a lot of other cafes with hard points for rope suspension installed. You can really ... hang out ... at Wicked Grounds.

Basically, we allow everything that the health department will let us. We serve food and drink, so you can’t have your genitals out, can’t have sex, no fluid play, and you need to keep your feet covered. Otherwise, you’re pretty good to go. It’s not uncommon to see a human animal running around chasing a ball or stuffed toy, or just chilling under a table and enjoying some quality head scratches. We have all kinds of folks stopping in with all kinds of dynamics and experience levels.

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Bondage and other kink products for sale at Wicked Grounds.
Source: Wicked Grounds

Molly: I saw that there's a section on your menu specifically for littles. What else does WG do to create an atmosphere that's fun and inclusive for people with alternative lifestyles and sexual preferences?

WG: Our littles menu is actually pretty new and we’ve all been excited about it. We’ve also had the option to have your drink or food served in a dog bowl for a long time now. It’s one of my personal favorites to serve. Nothing is as cute as a milkshake with whip and sprinkles in a cute dog bowl.

The most important part of creating the atmosphere that Wicked Grounds has is having a non-judgemental staff. We’re not there to yuck on someone else’s yum. If anything, we’re there to help folks feel safe doing it and maybe suggest a book or a toy along the way, or delicious aftercare snacks.

Read: What a Daddy Dom/Little Girl Relationship Is Really Like

Molly: How has Wicked Grounds been received by the wider local, non-kinky community? I imagine running this type of business in such a public, visible way involves challenges.

WG: You know, the worst that usually happens is someone walks in thinking we’re just a regular café, gets about halfway in, and walks back out again. We haven’t had any kind of disruptive antagonism. Most people might think it’s a little weird or ignore us altogether.

We’ve had a bunch of tech offices and such move into the area over the last few years and it’s not uncommon to have a more vanilla crowd in the mornings/mid-afternoons and a kinkier atmosphere after 5 p.m. That isn’t to say we hide the gorgeous Tantus dildos in the daytime. We’re still the same shop. We just have good food and coffee. Those things break down the borders, I guess. And who knows, maybe someone will discover something new and entirely fun.

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The Menu at Wicked Grounds in San Francisco
Source: Wicked Grounds

Molly: How can kinksters living in cities without strong kink scenes work to build communities that help people connect and explore safely? Do you have any advice to share?

WG: This is tough. It’s one of the recurring topics on our podcast, The Kinky Queer Revolution. Everywhere is a little bit different. The community, the language, the way parties are hosted; they’re all different. The internet’s been breaking those barriers down, but there’s a mess of new censorship going around too. It can be hard to give that magic-bullet advice.

If I had to break it down to a few oversimplified pieces of advice I’d say:

  • Do your research. There is a plethora of books on general BDSM and the scene. I like “Playing Well With Others” but there are tons to choose from.

  • Go to munches. It’s scary to get out there, but going to a public place to really get the feel of the community or organization is invaluable to starting your path.

  • Be aware that all kinks have risks involved and how you can or should handle said risks.

  • Communication, communication, communication. Create a dialogue. Learn to set boundaries. You’re allowed to say “No”. That’s the toughest one. Learning how to say “No”. And, of course, listen to other people. Don’t just wait for the next thing to say. Really listen to people. Expand your views. Learn as much as possible.

Read: 10 Helpful Tips for Hosting a BDSM Munch

Molly: If I wanted to help support Wicked Grounds and contribute to its cause, how might I do so?

WG: At the beginning of 2018, we closed for a whole few days. It was awful. Me and my family of coworkers, we were all out of a job. But then we were saved by the community and Patreon. We’re so incredibly humbled and thankful for that kind of continued support.

Wicked Grounds is only able to exist with the power of the community. We’re funded largely through Patreon at patreon.com/wickedgrounds. (We’re age-gated content, so you have to put in the link directly.) We offer advice blogs, podcasts, videos and many other things.

This is the best and most direct way to make sure a space like Wicked Grounds stays in the world. It’s also, now that we’re growing and exploring entirely new territory, going to be the place where you can get classes and education directly to you, wherever you are.

You can connect with Wicked Grounds via their website, or on social media via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.