BrainWash Cafe is in trouble. The SoMa laundromat/cafe and frequent host to open-mic nights has seen a precipitous drop in business over the past several months, and its owner says that unless something changes — and fast — he will be forced to close very soon. The Chronicle reports that construction of an adjacent 112-unit residential building has driven away customers, and that the almost 30-year-old mainstay is losing money hand over fist.
When the new building is finally done, BrainWash will have many more potential customers living next door, and that is not lost on owner Jeff Zalles — he's just not sure if he can keep the doors open that long. October revenues were down 20 percent over last year, and that trend has continued through mid-December. “I’ve poured my savings into this place just to stay afloat,” Zalles told the paper. “But I’m tapped out now.”
Work on that new development, 99 Rausch, began in February, and the jack-hammering and other construction work will continue for many more months on the block of Folsom between 7th and 8th Streets before the building is complete. “We need the housing in this city,” Zalles continued. “I get it. I just didn’t expect it to be this bad.”
BrainWash founder and building owner Susan Schindler put it succinctly, noting that “It is a sad irony to me that the business which helped make a depressed neighborhood more desirable is now being destroyed by the gentrification it inadvertently helped to create.”
The developer behind 99 Rausch is reportedly attempting to mitigate the disruption caused by the construction, and has committed to spend $1,000 per month at BrainWash while the work goes on, but that alone will not save the business. Zalles is having a hard time making rent, and fears the worst. “This isn’t anyone’s fault,” he told the paper. “For me, it’s just wrong place, wrong time.”