Pop-up spot Rogue Café goes private to comply with law

Rogue Café, a weekend-only brunch pop-up in a Berkeley backyard, has gone private. Photo: Rogue Café

Rogue Café, a pop-up brunch spot held on weekends in a Berkeley backyard, has chosen to become a private event after a Berkeleyside story prompted a visit by the city’s health department.

“After speaking with the health department we have decided to make Rogue a private event. It is the only legal way for us to continue in our current state,” co-owner Eric Thoresen told Berkeleyside.

The July 23 Berkeleyside story triggered a significant reader response, and several commenters questioned whether the pop-up restaurant was legal. “I’m curious about how these places operate. Do they get inspected by the health department…? … Also, do they get business permits? Is the neighborhood zoned for the business?” wrote Pragmatic Progressive.

Thoresen responded by saying that Rogue had a business license and paid taxes, but did not have a permit. He also addressed questions regarding food sourcing, safety and sanitation.

Rogue Café was started by Thoreson and Ciara Sanker last year. The pair met while working at Pizzaiolo in Oakland. The weekend-only café on Ellis Street served waffles, eggs and house-made pork sausage using produce from the Farmers’ Market. Cooking is done in a sparse, outdoor kitchen.

From now on people who want to have brunch at Rogue need to email the owners (see Rogue’s Facebook page for details).

Pop-up restaurants have proved a popular concept in the Bay Area and beyond in the past few years, spurred on both by the economic downturn and the appeal for consumers of the novelty factor and spontaneous nature of the events. Many of them have an “underground” element, but traditional Berkeley restaurants such as Local 123 and Guerilla Café have also experimented with the pop-up idea.

Rogue is not the first informal eatery that has had run-ins with the city. In 2010, Michael Parayno operated a music and supper club, then called the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz, out of his Sacramento Street residential address. After being busted for code violations on more than one occasion, Parayno reinvented the soirées as a private party, then moved it to a new venue at Café Yesterday. Earlier this month Parayno relaunched the private club as the Birdland Jazzista Social Club and says it is already proving a hit. It is in Manila, however, not Berkeley.

Rogue Cafe: Weekend pop-up serves up a mellow brunch [07.23.12]
Pop-up restaurants popping up around town [04.29.11]
What next for the Multi-Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz Club? [12.10.10]

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  • The Sharkey

    Which shop are you referring to?

  • bgal4


  • The Sharkey

    Wait, so both of the “collectives” that the City ordered shut down are still operational?!?

    Good gravy!

  • serkes

    Rouge relinquishes rogue?


  • Anonymous

    Especially when they are right and point out the absurdity of your position. I’ve lived next to three illegal businesses in my life (all started after I moved to the places) and in every case it was a nightmare for the neighbors. One was basically a thrift store that the woman ran under the guise of a perpetual “yard sale”, the second was a couple that assembled computers all night long in an upstairs apartment (amazing loud with boxes slamming on the floor all night), and the third was a guy who ran a body shop in his garage and our shared driveway. I don’t see why a restaurant would be any less awful.

  • bgal4

     Its worse, but we would have to meet for coffee to share.

  • guest

    I think you are very lucky and have a lot of free time if this is one of your main concerns.  That is awesome and I hope your adventures this weekend are fun.  I’m looking forward to my Sunday brunch at this private club.  I got my invite this morning.

  • Guest

     Of course you are correct, but there may be another side to the story.

    Before I state the other side, let me fully acknowledge the issue that you raise.  I had a similar thought about an article that praised or congratulated local businesses at which customers line up on the sidewalk to patronize.  This article highlighted the CheeseBoard Pizza Collective and Ici, pretty much equating the lines at their stores with excessive demand and therefore success.  It completely ignored the fact that these businesses simply are housed in buildings that are way too small to accommodate their patrons.  As a result, they cause congestion on the sidewalk that makes it very difficult to use it for, well, walking.  I thought that point deserved to be raised instead of only romanticizing these business.  (I patronize both of them regularly, by the way.)

    Similar concerns were expressed about the article reporting Jacquelyn McCormick’s candidacy for Mayor.  There were lots of comments like this one.  “I would like to hear more about her and her positions and less about her home and decorating skills.”

    Frances responded by saying, in part, “What I was attempting to do was write a feature that showed a bit about McCormick’s personality and motivations.”

    And now, here is the counterpoint to your expressed concern.

    The beauty (and, perhaps, bane) of Berkeleyside is its local focus.  It is here that we can get local information sooner or at all.  But there’s more to the town than the stuff of ‘pure’ journalism.  These writers (or some of them) seem to want to capture and present the ‘essence’ of the town.  Some of their attempts to do so almost certainly won’t be ‘hard hitting’ journalism; they’ll contain some element of, for lack of a better term, feature writing.

    Unlike the decision you seem to be contemplating or to have made, it’s still worth it to me to visit this site.

  • 4Eenie

    That kind of taunting is really not necessary. Obviously, people have voiced their concerns about what this kind of place does to their neighborhood. Do you not understand that it brings additional traffic, noise, loitering, parking issues, safety issues to people who live around this place?

    I’m all for the casual Saturday brunch, and it’s great when it’s served by professional chefs (?), but come on, you have to recognize that having what is essentially a party every Saturday and Sunday might just piss off your neighbors.

    Seriously, do you really not see the frustration from the residents who have to deal with this?

  • EBGuy

     I think they prefer the term ‘dispensaries in waiting’.

  • guest

    I will be walking and I promise to be very quiet.  I live 6 blocks away and have not noticed increased traffic or any disturbance.

  • guest

    and don’t forget delicious and fun.

  • serkes

    The masthead says

    “Berkeley, CA’s independent news site”
    So I thought I’d see what the definition of news was

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/news.  First definition1 a : a report of recent events

    And I think that berkeleyside does a great job of that.  I, for one, am not expecting The New York Times … or even hard hitting journalism.Since Berkeleyside’s been around (I think Wendy Cohen said tonight it’s in its 3rd year) I’ve learned a lot more about the city I’ve lived in since 1974 than any print, tv, or radio source.

    It’s a work-in-progress and sometimes the reports don’t hit the mark.  

    So what.  

    Some papers issue corrections, but the only place I’ve seen editors acknowledge mistakes is here.To paraphrase Scoop Nisker, “If it’s hard-hitting journalism you want, go out and create some of your own”Ira

  • Anon

    Ira:  Another way to look at it is that the commentators (including those very occasionally critical of Bside) volunteer a lot of the total content and, unltimately, (I would suggest)interest to this site.  A “news” item which might be less than 500 words could generate dozens of comments (sometimes much more) which adds hundreds/thousands of words of further content for readers to consume and follow as the debate and the sniping back and forth evolves. 

    The commentary battles may not always be totally civil, well-informed or grounded in facts, but how many total views/clicks on a limited staff news site like this one are, in fact, generated by the comments section rather than the original theme articles?  I would suggest the vast majority and unique viewers end up spending much more total time viewing the site thanks to all of the comments which readers take the time to contribute at no charge.

    So, those who do comment here regularly and, sometimes at length, do have a stake in the credibility of this news site and we have also earned the right to be critical of it when warranted.

  • The Sharkey

    Broadcasting intent to violate the law is what got Rogue busted in the first place. You aren’t doing them any favors by taunting their neighbors like this.

  • The Sharkey

    And don’t forget illegal and unfair competition to established restaurants.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Please report back on what you see at this house.  I was wondering, for example, whether the yard where they set out tables is hardscaped.  If it is, that would facilitate thorough cleanup after the close of business.  Diners will, inevitably, drop or brush food scraps onto the ground and if not looked after, those will surely draw rats.  Since you live in the area, you know that rodent populations increase in yards where food scraps are available.  And 120 people every weekend should be quite a draw if the rogues aren’t especially vigilant. The neighbors will also be affected, of course.

  • Mousepad

     So you still haven’t actually spoken to your neighbor.

  • Paparayno

    keep the debate to the Rogue situation. they can get their membership refunded anytime. that was addressed to the members back in 2011. fyi, there was very little conflict in the neighborhood. people got over it and moved on with their lives. 

  • serkes

    Excellent points – I often read the first few paragraphs and then jump directly to the comments.

    To use a chemical engineering analogy, the story is the catalyst for the readers’ reactions.
    I’m fine with people criticizing the reporting, and have also noticed many times when the reporting is corrected and mistakes acknowledged.

    Berkeleyside benefits from the time and energy people take to contribute and comment … and I also feel that it’s worth contributing comments, articles, videos and more – it makes berkeleyside more interesting.

    Consider subscribing – I don’t know anything about the profitiabilty of the site, but they might make it up in volume of subscribers.Ira

  • Paparayno

    belive me, I would if I could but most of the time at birdland for the first four months , it was just me and my beagle, Pinky who were volunteering until we got a few neighbors to rotate on the grill to bbq for the friends and neighbors. I never planned to have a jazz spot of anykind. It was just a memorial day party in May 2010 that the neighbors did not want to end and just continued until it ended.  I really like the spirit of a good neighborhood party rather than a business; that way I would not have to worry about the bottom line and might not have a stellar lineup of bay area musicians to play in the place if I worry about the finances. And believe me, i can only party twice a week till 7am at my age. I also don’t really want to sell liquor so that junior high and college kids and even little tots can come in with everybody. and we let poor folks and homeless in for free for everything, music, food, and shared whatever we had. Donation was $5 on sundays for entire families no matter how big your family was for food, non alcoholic drinks, and latin jazz. So business is out of the question, but a public place to just hang out and listen to jazz/blues/latin jazz would be cool a couple times a week so i can still have a social life. My close friends have advised me and told me that I’ve outgrown Berkeley and to move to SE Asia and do my birdhouses and Birdland. I’ve started a birdhouse workshop in Manila catering mainly to resorts to provide livelihood for artisans in the outskirts on Manila and I give them 50% of the profits from the business. 
    I’ve lived in that same flat since grad school at CAL since 1991 so I think it’s time to move on. The positive thing is that Birdland has replicated itself in Oakland and San Francisco via weekly jazz house parties(I am on the mailing list on about 9 jazz house parties now) albeit a bit more mellow but the good news is that there are more venues that musicians can gig in. I will miss the Berkeley High jazz kids whose favorite place to play was Birdland but those that attended those parties am sure will never forget that magical experience that liberated them in so many ways.
    thanks for all your comments and questions. I’ve appreciated it and hope some of my responses were not too harsh and overly defensive. jazzistas have a  bark, but no bite like my beagle, Pinky.

  • 4Eenie

    I come for the news. I stay for the comments. :)

  • bgal4


    Sorry birdman, this is so arrogant. “People got over it” meaning since you insisted you  were above the rules and people adjusted to your specialness.

    The debate is about how the rules are applied, that includes your operation as well.

    for members who did not receive the memo how do they obtain their refund?
    I would like to pass that info on to people in my circle who joined just as you close up.

  • SarahB

     I’ve been wondering about 40 acres. Last month I saw guys checking IDs at the door a couple times when I drove by. Haven’t noticed it this month. Anyone know what’s up?

  • Charles_Siegel

    ” Some of their attempts to do so almost certainly won’t be ‘hard
    hitting’ journalism; they’ll contain some element of, for lack of a
    better term, feature writing.”

    I think you got it.  The problem is that newspapers have separate sections for news and features (eg, first section and Datebook in the Chronicle).  Berkeleyside does not have separate sections, so some people expect all of its articles to be news – which is a bit like looking for hard-hitting journalism in the Datebook section.

    Bside might be able to deal with this problem by labeling its stories as “news” or “feature.”

  • bgal4

    the city claims they intend to take all three illegal cannabis dispensaries to ZAB,  the hearing has been postponed again, I was told to check sometimes in Aug.

    The city legal, code enforcement and zoning dept have refused to explain what process they intend to use to close these businesses.

    All three operations are in violation of zoning and MM ordinance requirements so why would the city chose the public nuisance abatement BMC code 23b.64 for this purpose?

    It does not make sense, and they have refused to answer basic questions about process, which does not have the potential to interfere with an investigation.

  • Gimpytroll

     I agree with all your points. I think bside’s strength is the comments section and I think you correctly called them out on their inconsistent moderation of the comments. In regards to  their facebook posts about the rogue cafe, I would give them a benefit of a doubt and think perhaps they were posting as individuals rather than representing Bside.

    If that wasn’t the case then it was pretty dumb of them to call their commenters trouble makers and it brings up other issues of transparency, bias and conflict of interest in their reporting.  

  • Anon

    Like BUSD and its “total, Kremlin like institutional silence”, stonewalling is what the CoB does best.

  • Guest

    The City is constrained in the avenues that it can use to actually close down various businesses. and homes; if the ordinance or state law does not have some penalty or enforcement mechanism, then the City has to use the nuisance abatement laws. 
    Are the City’s departments legally required to tell the citizens what process they intend to use to enforce or do certain things? Do you have the right to know the process? Does the federal government tell us exactly how they intend to fight a battle before they do it? Does the State give the details on how it will run a particular agency?Governments are charged with carrying out the details so citizens like you, Bgal4, don’t have to. If you want more information then request the documents from the City’s departments. You’re entitled to them under state law with a few exceptions. Look it up in the Government Code. There’s no conspiracy to keep you or anyone else in the dark.

  • ANon

    Oh, but there surely is a conspiracy not to disclose information which is damaging to the image of govt. institutions. 

    As noted in a separate story here on Bside about the BUSD and legal fees, they have refused to heed or even acknowledge multiple requests for information sought via Freedom of Information filings sought by public watchdogs.

    Public agencies stonewall the tax paying citizenry whom they supposedly represent as far as they can get away with it.  And since there appears to be no actual consequences for ignoring the public’s right to know, they will continue to hide potentially embarassing or damaging information with complete impunity.

  • i mean people got over it after we closed down. the neighborhood was sad for a minute after we closed but we all moved on. that’s what i meant. after all, it was just a bbq and some music.

  • Guest

     Well, their strength _was_ their comments section, but they banned one of their most informative commentators.

  • bgal4

    Don’t know you are Guest, but most readers here know I am Laura Menard, in 2009 I filed a complaint with the Civil grand jury against the city for not using BMC ordinance and state law to abate public nuisance. The complaint was sustained.

    Your edification fails way short. I also was a member of the coalition Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition, whose members included technical support funded through state public health services, our set of ordinances was adopted by the CoB, minus the proper code enforcement administrative regulations.

    So over the years of community advocacy, I have meet with our city attorneys, city managers and code enforcement  no less than 2 dozens times in discussion about legal policies and enforcement practices.

    In short, this is the short list of my advocacy about how Berkleey manages problem properties and code enforcement, I know far more than you could possibility imagine about the culture and practices in this area of local government.

  • Wow.  I would never have posted had I realized how well informed and powerful you are.  I also had no idea that Berkeley was so puritanical, or perhaps it is just some of the residents. My point was that you can do a public records act request if you really want the info you seek. This is now off-topic so I’m out. I did not mean to make this about you or anyone else in particular, Ms. Menard. There are many residents in this lovely city.

  • bgal4

    “Berkeley was so puritanical”

    please keep your unwarranted character attacks to yourself.

    as to the ? about why I bothered to respond in detail, B-Side forum is useful for community activists to directly inform the public

    many people read B-Side for this purpose

    I wish to correct you about the informed and powerful comment, Informed and hard working yes, powerful, no, if I was these matters would be fixed not continuing to drag down municipal functions.

  • southberkeleyres

    Dear Berkeleyside, 
    A “dislike” button would be a great addition to some of the comments from users on this story in particular.  Many are unemployed and underemployed these days struggling to get by.  Pop up restaurants or stores, flea markets, etc are a way for future business owners to test the waters, get experience.  Maybe one day our own neighborhood could benefit from creative entrepreneurs such as these who will open an more permanent business.   Why not have show some neighborly compassion and acceptance?  

    I’m going to ask Rogue Cafe for an invitation!

  • The Sharkey

    Here’s another article about the subject by occasional Berkeleyside author Sara Henry where she (and Birdman Mike) crap all over anyone who was concerned about a commercial cafe being set up in a residential back yard:


  • PragmaticProgressive

    It’s a laughably lame piece.  So asking questions about the legality, safety, and impact of a commercial operation marks the death knell for “for Berkeley’s reputation for free speech, free expression, and freedom to experiment with both everything edible and radical ideas.”

    This is, of course, ridiculous, since asking questions actually is speech while running an illegal restaurant is not.  

    Equally absurd is Eric Thoresen’s quote in the lede:  “Most of the criticism seems to have come from a few people who have never been to Rogue, don’t know me, and don’t know that many of the neighbors come for brunch.”  By this standard, only people who patronized the now-shuttered “massage” (read: prostitution) parlors were entitled to criticize them.  

    Look, if Thoresen wants to start a business, then he should start a business.  Why the half measures and corner cutting?  

  • The Sharkey

    I couldn’t agree more. And if people really think the laws are so overbearing and restrictive, why not work with the City and State to get them changed?

    Our current Mayor, Tom Bates, was instrumental in relaxing laws that lead to the explosion of craft beer brewing in California – I bet he’d be sympathetic to the position that a lot of small-time cooking hobbyists find themselves in and might be persuaded to help work on drafting legislation to ease up some of those restrictions.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Exactly.  Probably the only new information in Sara Henry’s piece was the contrast between the experience of Local 123, which is above-board, and Rogue, which is, well, not.  It took Local 123 three years (!!) to reach profitability;  Rogue is there already, but because they’re not playing by the rules.  

    I’d love to see Berkeley “incubate” these businesses so that they can make it with less runway.  

  • Guest

    I would love to hear from an actual neighbor.  I live a few blocks away and attended last weekend and didn’t notice much traffic, etc.  I’m wondering what the people who live nearby think.