After nearly 10 years of operation in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, Café Gratitude is closing.
The restaurant will cease operations by the end of 2015. Owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart told NOSH that they intend to focus on “farming and the six Southern California restaurants.”
“We have enjoyed serving the East Bay community,” they continued, “and thank them for their loyal patronage, and our employees for their years of service and dedication.”
The small organic, vegan food chain, where every item on the menu is an affirmation that begins with “I am,” opened its first restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2004. The Berkeley location followed soon afterwards. Today, Café Gratitude has six other locations: Los Angeles, Downtown L.A., San Diego, Venice, Santa Cruz and Kansas City.
This is the second time Café Gratitude has announced its closure. In 2011, the Engelharts believed that they would need to close all of its Northern California locations (eight at the time) because of two labor disputes. One lawsuit took the café to task for allegedly pooling tips illegally. A second suit, filed by a former bookkeeper, was a claim for disputed unpaid overtime wages.
These suits were not the first examples of employee dissatisfaction. In 2009, the East Bay Express reported that a café employee at a San Fransisco location was fired for not attending a training program with Landmark Education, a development company that aims to empower participants with tools to help them take charge of their lives.
After the lawsuits, Café Gratitude sold its Bay Area locations except for Berkeley
The restaurant serves only vegan and organic food, including a high complement of raw dishes. Grain and vegetables bowls, salads and fresh-pressed juices are typical menu items.
Café Gratitude has always had its devotees and its detractors. Some embrace the company’s mission, which encourages diners to “love life,” “adore yourself,” “accept the world” and to be “generous and grateful every day.”
“It’s a magical place where you’ll have a completely different dining experience. Everyone is positive and happy,” said former manager Alice Liu in a Berkeleyside profile in 2010. “There’s a good vibe here. We believe you can be in business and treat your employees in a kind and caring way.”
Others, such as matt r. on Yelp, cite dining experiences as “uncomfortable,” “disingenuous” and “inconsistent.”
Regardless of diners’ reception of the restaurant, Café Gratitude has been a bedrock of Shattuck Avenue, and its departure will surely be felt. No word yet on what will be moving into the space. We will keep you posted.