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San Francisco's First Cat Café Faces Financial Challenge

KitTea founders surpassed a crowdfunding goal of $50,000, but a hot commercial real-estate market means they need another $100,000 to open.

 |  Aug 11th 2014  |   0 Contributions


Update: Regardless of how much money KitTea is trying to raise in order to open, its founders have signed a lease to open San Francisco's first cat cafe. On the morning of Thursday, Aug. 14, the KitTea Facebook page reported the following:

We secured funding and have signed a lease! KitTea will be located at Gough & Page in the wonderful Hayes Valley neighborhood. A huge THANK YOU to everyone for the support!

We’ll let you know the exact open date soon!

We'll report more on this in the coming days. Congratulations to co-founders Courtney Hatt and David Braginsky!

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Cat lovers in San Francisco have been looking forward to the opening of KitTea, the city's first cat café, for several months. Frankly, it looks like they're going to have to wait longer. Last week, the founders announced that although they've found a potential space, they need more money than they expected to open.

Courtney Hatt, one of KitTea's co-founders, and feline friends.

Last week, contributors to the KitTea crowdfunding campaign received a letter from the founders, explaining the situation:

Unfortunately, due to the amount of money the landlord would like as a guarantee, combined with additional build-out we'd need to do to pass code from the health department, we estimate that we need an additional $100,000 before we can sign the lease and begin construction.

KitTea's crowdfunding campaign has gotten an impressive amount of support from cat lovers: The original goal was $50,000; supporters pledged almost $64,000. But even with that degree of support, it will be quite a challenge for the founders to triple their original goal through crowdfunding.

Picture by Orlando Angel

Co-founders Courtney Hatt and David Braginsky said in the letter that they are looking for angel investors, but it's questionable whether KitTea will open this year. Once they get the money, extensive changes must be made to the space to bring it up to code and divide it into a tea service area and a cat area.

None of this is really surprising to anyone who lives in the Bay Area. It's another example of a phenomenon that has accelerated in the past few years, where inflated real-estate prices make it harder and harder for small businesses to start or survive. Economic pressure has been putting the squeeze on the quirky strangeness that San Francisco's reputation is based on, and replacing it with corporate tech ventures. Or, as Cat Dandy put it in his first interview with Courtney Hatt, we're moving toward an entire economy and culture based on " What Johnny Can Do with His Smartphone."

Just how volatile the environment is right now is demonstrated by Courtney Hatt's quote to the San Francisco Business Times: "We felt the lease was a little too expensive in the beginning, but then it turned out to be the best one we found. Unfortunately, the lease went up (while we were looking at other locations) because the market changed."

Image by Orlando Angel.

In the meantime, it looks like the other side of the bay may get its cat café first. The Cat Town Café is still aiming for an opening date of September. That's literally only weeks away.

We wish the best to Courtney Hatt and her partners in getting KitTea open. If you want to help them out, make a pledge on the crowdfunding page.

Via San Francisco Business Times

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