Cafe International, beloved Lower Haight fixture, closed while owner contemplates future

A landmark San Francisco café has closed its doors for now, posting a note for patrons that the owner has been plagued by shoplifting, extortion and threats of violence.

Café International has been a beloved fixture of the Lower Haight neighborhood for 35 years, and now its future seems up in the air.

In just about every neighborhood there's that certain businesses that acts as a gathering spot or an informal town square.

In San Francisco's Lower Haight, Café International has had that honor since opening its doors in 1987. That's why so many were surprised on Monday to find the doors closed, a note in the window reading "gone thinking". The owner elaborates in a longer note. The note also posted to Café International's Instagram page, reading in part "I need 5 days' rest regarding my violated state of mind.
Daily shopliftings, extortions coupled with a propensity to violence, back to back break-ins and thousands of dollars in debt for property damages." She says she needs time to find a way to not be another Lower Haight business to shut down.

That social media page showing part of the reason so many love Café International; the live music, and the diverse population drawn to the café. Customers say it's a neighborhood gem worth saving. "Yeah, of course I'm frustrated," said one customer. "There's an element that's irresponsible and there's nothing that anyone seems to be able to do anything about it."

Café international's complaints are shared by several businesses in the area. None wanted to talk on camera, but one said they face the same kinds of problems, explaining that recently, someone tried to break in to their business to steal an ATM.

Mathew is a small online business owner himself of, and says the idea of taking his business to the next level and opening a brick and mortar location is daunting. "Brick and mortar shops are faced with things like breaking and entering, things like theft, things like high rent."

In the note, Café International's owner says politicians are doing little to help, and that something needs to be done to wake up City Hall.

Supervisor Dean Preston's office released a statement reading in part, "We are extremely concerned that Café International has been targeted again, and we have reached out to SFPD for more information about the case. We share the frustration with the City’s lack of progress in preventing these kinds of robberies."

The note says that Café international will reopen September 2nd. Not soon enough for some customers, and that note ends on a resilient tone, the owner says she will not leave her city.

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