CatHead’s BBQ permanently closes in San Francisco

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After months of financial struggle, CatHead’s BBQ in San Francisco has permanently closed.

Richard Park, who co-owns the restaurant with wife and pitmaster Pam Schafer, made the announcement on their business website, where he shared that CatHead’s last day of service was Aug. 2.

“We’ve had moments where we just want to cry,” Park said.

Months before closing, Park said that CatHead’s BBQ quickly adapted to takeout right after the shutdown. For CatHead’s BBQ, the shift to takeout wasn’t difficult, because it had experience with catering events.

But as the months continued without large gatherings, sales began to decline.

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“Basically, what happened was that we did a lot of catering through our business,” Park said. “We did company picnics, weddings, and bar mitzvahs in the summer. Without all that we really couldn’t hold on anymore.”

Then, things intensified as fewer customers began to come to the store.

“I feel like a lot of people weren’t out and about,” Park said. “There’s not a lot of foot traffic on Folsom Street. It’s more of a destination place.”

Park estimates that before the pandemic, his business was making about $8,000 to $10,000 per week, but after the pandemic hit, CatHead’s BBQ had about $2,000 in weekly sales.

Through that time, staff at CatHead’s BBQ had remained employed full-time, and Park says a Paycheck Protection Program loan helped pay their salaries. Eventually, the money ran out.

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When asked about the future of the business, Park shared that he and Schafer want to continue cooking, but they don’t know if they will continue making barbecue.

Located at 1665 Folsom St., CatHead’s BBQ opened its brick-and-mortar outpost in 2012 at the former site of Big Nate’s BBQ, owned by NBA Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond. The structure came with built-in BBQ pits, Park said, and they will be left intact as the business closes.

“We can’t re-create what we did there anywhere else,” Park said. “Maybe what we learned here can be [applied] somewhere else.”

CatHead’s BBQ began in 2008, and after 13 years in business, Park said he and Schafer are ready for a break.

“We’ve been fully immersed and really want to take a break and refocus,” Park said. “We’re not going to stop cooking, but we don’t know what we’re going to do. In this climate, there’s no telling.”

CatHead’s BBQ was located at 1665 Folsom St. in San Francisco

Susana Guerrero is an SFGATE digital reporter. Email: Susana.Guerrero@sfgate.com | Twitter: @SusyGuerrero3

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