Rasputin Music on Telegraph Avenue won a permit to serve ice cream, but not out of a take-out window on Channing Way, the Berkeley City Council ruled Tuesday night.
Popular ice cream sandwich spot C.R.E.A.M., which stands for Cookies Rule Everything Around Me — in reference to the 1993 Wu-Tang Clan song “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” — had appealed the permit request by Rasputin owner Ken Sarachan, citing concerns about disabled access on the sidewalk and potential traffic violations at a red curb should the take-out window open. Cookies Rule is located across the street from the proposed window at Rasputin.
Many of the council members said they too were concerned about access and traffic issues, and voted to allow Sarachan to sell his ice cream from inside the shop rather than via a window.
C.R.E.A.M. co-owner Gus Shamieh said after Tuesday night’s meeting that he was satisfied with the council’s decision. Shamieh had stressed in his presentation that the appeal was not about competition but was focused on traffic and access issues. The business didn’t argue when another frozen treat spot opened nearby, he added.
“Our concerns were addressed by the council,” he said. “We’re happy with that.”
Ken Sarachan said he still plans to sell ice cream at Rasputin, even without the take-out window, though he called it “half a victory.” He said the council’s concerns about access due to the proposed window were “a made-up problem,” and pointed to a take-out window already in existence at Yogurt Park nearby on Durant Avenue that doesn’t result in sidewalk blockage.
“The window just means we could serve people more efficiently, twice as fast,” he said after the meeting. “It’s all a bunch of nonsense. People get by at C.R.E.A.M. People get by at Cheese Board. People in Berkeley know how to line up and get out of the way. It’s a made-up ‘straw dog’ dilemma.”
In response to concerns about the similarity of the name chosen by Sarachan for his ice cream business, Rasputin’s Dream, in comparison to C.R.E.A.M. across the street, a manager at the Rasputin store in San Francisco told the council that Sarachan has already been selling ice cream under that moniker in the city for a year and a half.
Sarachan, in his remarks to the council, said the name came to him in a lucid dream.
“I was at Rasputin in Red Square, and all the buildings were edible,” he said. “I was eating chocolate cake off the Kremlin, and St. Basil’s [Cathedral] was melting.” (The Rasputin’s Dream logo, pictured above, features St. Basil’s prominently.)
He said Cookies Rule had no exclusive rights to the generic word “cream,” which is already part of “ice cream,” and appears in the name of many frozen treat spots. And Dream ice cream, he said, would take that one step further: “Rhyme is not a crime. That’s my point.”
Ray Lai of Atomic Ice Cream is already working with Sarachan to create the Dream product line. Sarachan said he’s been trying to open in Berkeley since August.
Sarachan stressed that he didn’t think his business would pose much competition to C.R.E.A.M., but would instead likely capture people who aren’t coming to the avenue or aren’t willing to wait in a long line for ice cream. He also said his product would be different, with ice cream made from berries and stone fruit grown at his organic farm in Fairfield, and low-glycemic cookies made with less sugar.
Numerous people spoke before the council in support of both ice cream endeavors. Many from the C.R.E.A.M. camp said it is a family-run business that treats its employees like family, and deserved council support due to its popularity and active approach to community engagement. Those who spoke in favor of Rasputin’s plans said that business has been an important part of the neighborhood’s history, and also puts a premium on a family-like atmosphere, as well as supporting independent music.
Sarachan’s wife, Laurie Brown, said Tuesday night that Ken launched Rasputin on Telegraph in the 70s when there were five music stores on the avenue.
“I asked him, wasn’t he afraid of all the competition?” she told the council. “He looked at me with incredulity and said, ‘That’s what’s called a regional draw. That’s what makes a neighborhood thrive.’”
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