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    Supervisor Mandelman Is Working to Reopen Flore in ‘Successful and Sustainable Way’

    While many of us were preoccupied over the past several weeks with work and the recent winter holidays, Flore quietly closed its doors as a café with a sign outside stating that it will be “open for special events.” The closure hit many of us hard, yet it was not entirely unexpected.

    Owners Terrance Alan and Aaron Silverman, who purchased the landmark Castro hub at 2298 Market Street in 2017, envisioned that it would become “San Francisco’s first cannabis café.” The obstacle, at least for now, is that businesses in California cannot sell both alcohol and cannabis, so Alan and Silverman received approval for a dispensary at nearby 258 Noe Street.

    Launching the new concept of the site being an event space was a January 11 re-election party of State Senator Scott Wiener.

    For many of us, however, the former Café Flore was a reliable, welcoming home away from home, where we could meet friends, family and partners, or just go solo for a drink or satisfying meal. The 47-year-old historic building, with its corrugated tin roof and eclectic decor, made it among the coziest of spots during wintry days. During the fall and summer, the sun-soaked patio was a natural for leisurely brunching over long conversations.

    Entertainer Marga Gomez is among the many who has posted tributes to Café Flore in recent days. She wrote, in part: “Maybe if we didn’t rely on social media to catch up we’d force ourselves to go sit in the fresh air and talk to people over a cold omelet.” She added, “Thank you, Café Flore, for being the fountain of my San Francisco queer youth and the best corner on Earth.”

    Former San Francisco Bay Times columnist, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, wrote, “I have been trying to remember the first time I went to Flore, and I think it might actually have been back in high school (before I came out), tagging along with friends far cooler than me. But definitely on college visits back home and into early adulthood, Flore was my go-to space, a place to catch up with friends, read, cruise cute guys. It was just a great great space.”

    He continued: “We need great queer spaces in the Castro today more than ever, but instead we seem to be losing them at an ever-increasing clip. Over the last year the Castro has seen a number of small businesses close their doors for a variety of reasons including increased rents, decreased foot traffic, the Amazonization of retail, high labor costs and tragic fires. But in my view, the thing that has changed the most in the Castro over the last decade is the daily presence of seriously mentally ill and addicted people in neighborhood public spaces. Many small business owners have shared stories with me about such troubled souls blocking entryways, smashing windows, lighting fires, harassing employees and intimidating customers.”

    “The recently-announced closure of Cafe Flore (or the latest version of Flore) was a long time coming, but I do not believe this is the end for the Castro, or even for Flore. My office has been in touch with the owners, as well as potential community partners, to find a way to reopen Flore in a successful and sustainable way.”

    We hope that this once-vibrant café will again be open for all to enjoy, and not just for those seeking cannabis and/or alcohol. The loss of Café Flore, however long, provides a stark reminder of how fragile the financial situation can be for even longtime, established businesses. As Mandelman advises, we need to patronize our local treasured businesses: “Each announced small business closure is met with a chorus of sadness and nostalgia, but if we care about our neighborhood small businesses, we need to shop and dine like we mean it.”

    Published on January 16, 2020