Category Archives: Local business

Berkeley council votes to put minimum wage on ballot

The turnout was sparse for Tuesday night's council meeting, which included a vote on the minimum wage. Photo: Mark Coplan
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A Berkeley City Council majority voted Tuesday night to put an alternative minimum wage proposal on the November 2016 ballot they say will be more moderate than a community measure announced last week.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli — mayoral hopeful — put forward the alternative proposal and asked city staff to come back with a resolution city officials could put on the ballot. Council had been slated to vote to revise the city’s minimum wage ordinance Tuesday night, but instead voted in favor of the substitute motion from Capitelli.

Read more on the minimum wage from Berkeleyside.

The Capitelli proposal would take the minimum wage for all businesses in Berkeley to $15 an hour by October 2019. It is already slated to increase to $12.53 in October of this year. Under the proposed resolution put forward Tuesday night, this would be followed by annual increases each October to $13.25 in 2017 and $14.05 in 2018.

The initiative put forward last week would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by October 2017.

Unlike many prior Berkeley council meetings focused on the minimum wage, the turnout Tuesday night was sparse. A handful of speakers asked council to move faster to help workers, while others asked for more time for small businesses to weigh in and adjust. … Continue reading »

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New incubator signals growth in city’s tech ecosystem

The Batchery occupies a 12,000-foot space on the third floor of 2036 Bancroft Ave. Photo: The Batchery
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Michelle Calloway is standing in front of a group of potential investors holding a microphone. The rules of the pitch are strict: no videos, no samples, nothing in fact that could make it simple to describe the product she plans to launch onto the market. Instead, she has the simple power of words.

So Calloway takes a deep breath and launches into a description of the augmented-reality greeting card company Revealio that she and her husband, Jerry Bowden, hope will disrupt the greeting card industry. People are craving connection, she tells the group, and a personalized, emailed video card could shorten the emotional distance between a soldier overseas and his sweetheart, for example, or a grandmother and grandchild.

“It’s a printed card that comes alive before your eyes,” says Calloway. “It’s amazing.”

Read more about Berkeley startups.

Calloway was giving her practice pitch at The Batchery, Berkeley’s newest tech space, located at 2036 Bancroft Way, near Shattuck Avenue. Calloway was hoping the feedback provided by The Batchery’s partners – all of whom have deep experience either starting or running companies – would refine her delivery. … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyans to be asked to accelerate $15 minimum wage

Steve Gilbert (holding the mic) announces at a press conference on Monday that the coalition, Berkeley for Workign Families, has collected enough signatures to place a measure on the Nov. ballot raising the minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Photo: SEIU 1021
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A coalition of unions, politicians and community activists, fed up with what they perceive to be the slow pace of change coming from the City Council, appears to have collected enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot raising the minimum wage to $15.

The group, which calls itself “Berkeley for Working Families,” turned in around 4,400 signatures to the City Clerk’s office on Monday, well above the 2,638 required.

If adopted by voters, the measure would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Then the wage would be raised each year by 3% + inflation until it hits $16.37, which is considered Berkeley’s official “livable” wage. The measure would also require employers to provide sick leave – up to nine days a year for large employers, and six days a year for companies with fewer than 10 employees.

“People are working and working and working but they can’t keep their heads above water because the cost of living is higher than in the rest of the state,” said Steve Gilbert, a retired mechanic with SEIU Local 1021. … Continue reading »

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24-year-old Cal grad launches $6M start-ups fund

Jeremy Fiance. Photo: LinkedIn
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A 24-year old Berkeley alum who raised funds for start-ups while still in school announced Monday that he has started a $6 million fund for companies connected to UC Berkeley.

Jeremy Fiance has launched The House Fund, which will seed very early stage companies with anything from $50,000 to $250,000.

Financial backers and advisors (most of whom are UC Berkeley grads) include Shervin Pishevar, an early investor in Uber and now a managing partner at Sherpa Capital, Jeff Brody, managing partner at Redpoint Ventures, John Burke, the founder of True Ventures, and Prakash Janakiraman, the founder Nextdoor, and others, according to Venture Beat.

“We believe a University ecosystem is an ideal place to start up and Berkeley’s is one of the best around,” said Fiance in an article he posted on Medium. “But there’s still a huge need for strengthened community and funding support.” … Continue reading »

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Nosh on the town: Julia’s at Berkeley City Club

Julia's at Berkeley City Club. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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It’s not every day when you get to eat dinner in what feels like a castle.

But that’s the sensation you get when dining at Julia’s at Berkeley City Club. The restaurant, which opened in 2012, is hidden away on the second floor of the Julia Morgan-designed building. The dining room is a throwback to the days before wooden stools, communal tables and Edison lightbulbs became de rigueur — tables are large and covered with white tablecloths, chairs are cushioned, carpets muffle noise.

The menu, however, has modern touches. Executive chef Alaun Grimaud, who helped open the restaurant but left in 2015, is back in the kitchen, crafting modern California cuisine with strong French and Spanish influence. Of-the-moment dishes like burrata cheese with seasonal toppings and chicken liver terrine with pickled fruits appear alongside safer classics like New York strip steaks and fettuccini pasta.  … Continue reading »

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Ohlone human remains found in trench in West Berkeley

Construction workers uncovered ancient Ohlone remains on March 29 while digging a trench in front of Spenger's Fish Restaurant at 1919 Fourth St. Photo: Wendy Kenin
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Update April 10: The developer of the Fourth Street site issued a statement to Berkeleyside through its publicist, in response to the original April 8 story:

“Jamestown is complying with local stakeholders, including the recommendations of the appointed Most Likely Descendent, in order to ensure the respectful and dignified treatment of the remains. In light of this discovery, Jamestown is performing further archaeological studies of the property and has enlisted a member of the Ohlone Tribe to monitor future excavation work. Construction will continue but all excavation work will stop until a monitor is in place. We are committed to the local community and protecting the traditions of the native peoples.”

Original story: Construction workers on March 29 uncovered what appear to be “pre-contact” Indian remains while digging a trench on Fourth Street near Hearst Avenue as part of the redevelopment of Spenger’s Fish Grotto and adjoining parcels.

Workers excavating adjacent to 1919 Fourth St. immediately stopped all work on the site and notified authorities, as required by the use permit, according to Matthai Chakko, a city of Berkeley spokesman. Jamestown, the corporate owner of the property, brought in an osteologist, or bone expert, who determined that the remains, which lay among shell midden — remnants of the ancient shellmound that sat for centuries in that area — were human. The Alameda County Coroner’s office later confirmed the finding.

“Because of the context with shell midden around it, and because we know that part of town contained shell mounds, we know it was a burial and it was human,” said Andy Galvan, a Chochenyo Ohlone Indian who is the curator of the Mission Dolores Museum in San Francisco and who often helps developers determine whether there are Indian artifacts on their properties. … Continue reading »

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After latest shooting, neighbors talk public safety

The corner of Delaware and San Pablo, the site of three shootings in recent years. Photo: Emily Dugdale.
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“How much is too much?”

The question lingered in the air as folding chairs were put away following what was described as an “action plan” meeting Saturday convened by Berkeley Councilwoman Linda Maio held at the Adult School in West Berkeley. Long-time residents joined young families, as well as a representative from the Berkeley Police Department, to discuss potential neighborhood changes following the March 15 shooting of a 28-year-old man on the corner of Delaware and San Pablo Avenue outside of Bing’s Liquors.

“I know you feel the same way I do,” Maio told an agitated crowd of approximately 40 neighbors who shared accounts of witnessing substance abuse, public defection and “sleaze” centered on a small strip of bustling San Pablo Avenue. “This is not new,” she said.

March’s incident marks the third shooting in the area in as many years. In February 2013, Zontee Jones, 34, was shot in broad daylight on Delaware Street and San Pablo Avenue. Six months later, on the other side of San Pablo at Delaware, Dustin Bynum, 24, was shot at close range in front of Bing’s Liquors. … Continue reading »

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Council overturns landmark designation where Berkeley Honda hopes to open

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave., the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley Honda can now push forward with its plans to open in the former Any Mountain location on Shattuck Avenue after a City Council vote last week.

Neighbors had put together a petition late last year to ask the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the building, at 2777 Shattuck Ave. The LPC voted in December to designate the building a “structure of merit.”

See complete Berkeley Honda coverage on Berkeleyside.

Property owner Glenn Yasuda had appealed that decision. He has been trying to work out a deal with Berkeley Honda to let the company move in. The business had to leave its old location due to construction. Many Berkeley Honda employees attended last week’s meeting to ask council to overturn the LPC vote.

Many neighborhood residents also came to the March 15 council meeting to urge officials to uphold the LPC decision. Many said they don’t mind if Berkeley Honda moves in and didn’t think the LPC designation should stop Honda from forging ahead. They also criticized the company for trying to pit local residents against the workers.  … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The Bone Room, Photo Center, LMi.Net, more

Employee and customers looking at skeletons
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BONE ROOM CLOSING STORE Berkeley’s quirkiest store, The Bone Room, announced on Tuesday that it is closing its brick-and-mortar store on Solano Avenue (which it had already downsized last spring). A place of wonder for children and adults, scientists and artists for more than 30 years, The Bone Room will be focusing on growing its online sales, “hosting more pop-up shops around California, and … increasing our popular literary events,” according a March 22 Facebook post. The store was founded by Ron Cauble, a brilliant scientist and natural historian, who also opened the East Bay Vivarium in West Berkeley. Cauble died in July 2015. The Bone Room will close its doors on June 1, but the post urged fans not to despair: “Fear not, dear Bone Roomers!!! We are NOT closing down, but rather evolving. Keep following us (and turn on our notifications) for sales, special items, Bone Crew antics, videos and more. Your incredible support is what has allowed our shop to grow. Thank you for the years so far, and for the years to come!” Visit The Bone Room’s shop at 1573 Solano Ave. through June 1; visit its website and online store (real bats in lucite, priced at $30 each!); connect with The Bone Room on Facebook.
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Will Berkeley flea market survive changing neighborhood?

African art and objects on display at the Berkeley Flea Market by Andrew
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By Andrew Stelzer, KQED

You can hear the rumble of a drum circle from more than a block away, and it grows louder and louder as you approach Berkeley’s Ashby BART Station. Every Saturday and Sunday — except when it rains — a freewheeling jam session brings together drummers and other musicians in the BART parking lot.

Guy Fuerte, who’s been banging on his Cajon — a large rectangular drum — says he’s been coming to play here for 20 years, and it’s kept him from “making bad decisions.”

“It just gave me a place to come to express myself freely,” says Fuerte, who is now friends with many other musicians who come to play. “I was intimidated by the playing, by the music. I didn’t know how it all came together. I didn’t know how to use my hands to create such rhythms, but they invited me into it and showed me how … they were patient with me.”

This drum circle is part of the Berkeley flea market, which has served as a gathering place for African-Americans and other local residents for decades. Now the city of Berkeley is planning improvements to the surrounding neighborhood, and many are concerned that will contribute to more displacement of longtime residents — and of this well-loved market. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Sweetgreen, La Botella, Itani Ramen, more

za'atar salad: chopped romaine, parsley + mint, tomatoes + cucumbers + onions, raw beets, roasted chicken, za'atar pita chips and creamy sumac dressing. Photo: Sweetgreen/Facebook
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Openings, closings

SWEETGREEN PLANNING FOR MID-APRIL OPENING Almost a year after it was announced, the first Northern California location for Washington D.C.-based Sweetgreen is slated to open April 12 in the former Oscar’s restaurant on Shattuck Avenue. Co-founder Nicolas Jammet told NOSH that the build-out stayed mostly on track, despite the discovery of a gas tank buried in the building’s parking lot earlier this year. The Berkeley location of Sweetgreen will feature ingredients from local producers like Full Belly Farm, Rotto Brothers, Van Groningen, Acme Bread, Hodo Soy, Mary’s Chicken and Belfiore cheese. It will also include at least one signature item unique to this location, a Falafel and Feta salad with broccoli leaves, which will feature cheese from Berkeley’s Belfiore. In the lead-up to opening, Sweetgreen will be hosting a few events. On April 9, it will hold a “Planting our Roots Day,” in which community members can come and plant seedlings. They can then take the seedlings home or donate them to the Berkeley Technology Academy (BTA) garden. On opening day, Sweetgreen will be splitting 100% of its proceeds between the BTA garden and Sweetgreen in Schools programing in Berkeley and Oakland. The following day, April 13, the company will hold an afternoon garden building event at BTA, with a complementary Sweetgreen dinner to follow. Sweetgreen will soon be joined by another salad-focused restaurant, Tender Greens, which will be opening at 2071 University Ave. (at Shattuck). Despite the added competition, Jammet said that he is excited about its pending arrival. “If one of us can convert more people to eating this type of food, that’s a good thing,” he said. “The more the merrier.” Sweetgreen will be at 1890 Shattuck Ave. (at Hearst Street), Berkeley, in the former Oscar’s restaurant. Connect with Sweetgreen on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: French Hotel, La Botella Republic, more

The French Hotel has been sold to Prima Donna Hotels, which will remodel the rooms and covert the cafe into a bistro. Photo: Visit Berkeley
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NEW OWNERS FOR THE FRENCH HOTEL The three-story brick French Hotel on Shattuck Avenue in the Gourmet Ghetto has long been a favorite spot to get an espresso or latte. Now the hotel has a new owner/operator that is planning to renovate the 18-room hotel, make it more upscale, and convert the coffee shop into a bistro. It will be renamed SenS Hotel and Bistro Berkeley. Dean Banks, the associate vice president and director of operations for Prima Donna Hotels, which purchased the property, said standards will be kept high and customers shouldn’t worry, even though the source of the coffee will change. (The hotel and café had been owned and run previously by David “Sandy” Boyd, who operates a number of other coffee shops through his Emeryville-based company Espresso Roma) “It’ll be the same,” said Banks. “I doubt people will taste the difference.” The hotel operator plans to bring in high-quality coffee and add soups, sandwiches, and other menu items, he said. Prima Donna Hotels, which is owned by Michael W.N and Shirley N. Chiu of Los Gatos, will renovate the rooms and decorate them in an east-west style similar to the hotel it operates in Bali in Indonesia. The hotel group also operates the Residence Inn by Marriott in Livermore. It just sold three hotels in Portland, OR, and is building another hotel in Indonesia, said Banks. Watch for the temporary banner out front announcing the new name change. … Continue reading »

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Update: SpoonRocket confirms it has shut down

Sweet potato and black bean chili from SpoonRocket. Photo: SpoonRocket
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Update: 3.15.16, 9:30 a.m.: SpoonRocket has confirmed it is ceasing operations. Tuesday morning it informed its investors it was shutting down its meal delivery service after failing to raise the necessary capital to continue. Co-founder Steven Hsiao confirmed the decision to TechCrunch. The company also sent out an email to its drivers letting them know it was closing down. It suggested drivers apply to jobs at San Francisco-based Sprig, another food delivery service where, it said, SpoonRocket drivers would be “an awesome fit.” The alert to drivers reads in part:

Admin Bay Area wrote:
3/15/16      URGENT UPDATE FOR ALL DRIVERS
GOODBYE…
SpoonRocket will cease all our operations effective immediately. We set out to build the next generation of food delivery network and we are proud of what we were able to achieve in a short period of time. However, as competition for on-demand food delivery has grown, it became clear that we could not continue to compete. Over the last few months, we’ve been exploring our next options and unfortunately came up short.
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