“Big Heart” Video Cafe at Geary & 21st closes after 25 years

Several people have written in today asking why the Video Cafe, a Richmond District institution for the last 25 years, is now closed and cleaned out.

From what I’ve been told, the cafe was having financial problems for the last year. Business was slow and they were under the gun to come up to code for the American Disabilities Act (ADA) in areas like the restrooms, the front door and front sidewalk.

The cafe’s proprietor is also the building owner. She bought the building about 5 years ago after renting for twenty. As a result, the costs to meet ADA guidelines would have come from the cafe’s coffers, which were probably not very big to begin with.

I contacted a friend who was a longtime customer of the cafe, affectionately known to regulars as “Big Heart”. For over 15 years, he met friends every morning for coffee and breakfast at the cafe.

He told me that the atmosphere in the cafe has been rather gloomy the last few months, as staff and the owner anticipated having to close.

I do not have any information about what will happen to the corner retail space. If I hear anything more, I’ll be sure to let you know.

It’s very sad to see this cafe close. As one reader put it, “The Richmond loves its Video Cafe” so I am sure there are many who will be saddened by this news. It was one of those quirky, anachronistic spots that seemed to be caught in an endearing time warp. Plus the combo cafe and video rental counter was uniquely…different.

RIP Video Cafe – you will be missed.

Sarah B.

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  1. Myles – right on assessment of “hipsters”. New District campaign for Eric Mar: “Keep the Richmond Square.”

  2. That is so sad. My first kiss was at the phonebooth that used to be in front of the place. I used the phone to call the girl and she snuck out of her parents house and we smooched right there for a couple minutes before she had to sneak back. That was 1994 i think…

  3. So what’s a good place for breakfast in this brave new world? Hamburger Haven on Clement is as close as I can think of.

  4. Here’s a few places I know of:

    EATS – Clement & 2nd Avenue
    Bob’s Restaurant – Calif btwn. 5th & 6th Avenue
    Louis’ Cafe – Point Lobos, right above the Cliff House
    Velo Rouge Cafe – Arguello at McAllister
    Blue Danube Cafe – Clement btwn. 4th & 5th
    Joe’s Coffee Shop – Geary btwn. 25th & 26th
    Seal Rock Inn Restaurant – 545 Point Lobos at 48th
    The Cliff House Bistro – at the Cliff House

  5. Thanks for the tip about Joe’s Coffee Shop. I had never noticed it. Alas, all of these places are at least a mile from home, and some close to 2 miles (versus half a mile (4 long blocks) to Big Heart). Good to get some excercise and work off the pancakes.

  6. Dating myself here – but I worked at Big Heart back in the 80’s when it was still just Big Heart and closed at 8:00 pm. I lived a block away, and worked my way through school doing shifts there, waiting on cops, cutting meat for elderly people, and refilling endless cups of coffee. It was pretty much 2 years of torture, but I also have fond memories. I quit when it changed to being open 24 hours and they started using computers and doing fancy coffee drinks. I never set foot in there again after I quit, even though I lived there until a few years ago. Still, I’m sad its gone.

  7. Spent many a late night early morning there after working at the AMC theater in Japan Town back in the 90’s. Sad to see it gone. Many good memories with good friends there. Knew the servers too.

  8. The first time I used the men’s restroom at Big Heart I thought, this is definitely pre-ADA. It was one of several restaurants (which shall remain nameless) that required you to pass through narrow hallways used for storage (at least for Big Heart the ladies room was a clear shot from the back corner of the dining room). I fondly remember one (possibly fixed with a recent renovation) where the men’s room was up in a mezzanine.

    Big Heart’s restrooms were by no means the least accessible in the city, not to mention the entrance. It would probably have been possible to make both restrooms unisex and renovate the ladies room for disabilities access, though retrofitting an accessible sink, adding legal grab bars, etc. on a limited budget is still a big hurdle.

  9. I heard the building is going to be torn down, real shame, my nanny used to go in there with her friends after church to have coffee and breakfast. I’ll miss their shakes, the food was nothing to write home about, but in the late 80s it served as a friendly video store, before blockbuster moved in (who knows how long we will have that)

  10. This is so sad, it is getting harder and harder to find a place to have a breakfast that won’t break your wallet. I had many good breakfasts there and the staff was great, always remembering my standard order. We’ll miss you Video Cafe.

  11. I spent so many late nights eating there after hanging out with friends.

    When it was 1 a.m. on a otherwise lonley Friday night, after a long hard week at work; I simply felt like I needed to go to a place where the people were friendly, the setting is quiet – video cafe was this bastion from a world I very much wanted to take refuge from.

    So many dates ended up there.

    So many fond arguements with that glasses wearing waitress…which im sure was just tired from super-long shifts.

    Yep. I love you video cafe. Always will.

  12. It’s not just the Video Cafe, its restaurants and stores in the Richmond, Sunset and Mission. This is the work of two greedy bastards, the attorney Frankovich and his slimy client, whose name is Craig Yates. Yes, Craig is in a wheelchair, but I doubt that he reads books(closing of bookstore on Clement at Arguello), or buys women’s jewellery (closing of Gallery of Jewels on 24th). He and this attorney are working the city to make money, this is not a serious ADA issue. I have heard that some small businesses are paying out $1000/month so they can stay open without having to ensure ADA accessibility (don’t quote me on that one). Anyrate these two bastards are ruining small businesses in this city and should be stopped. Does anyone have any ideas, picketing, caustic e-mails, whatever. Whatever is legal I guess!!

  13. no, it won’t be missed. that place sucked. the food was bad, the service was worse. if you came in with a backpack, intent to sit down and read/study, you were asked to leave. video cafe didn’t get a dime out of me since the last time i went there in 1995. good riddance.

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