Category Archives: Local business

Op-ed: Vote yes on U1 and no on Measure DD to fund affordable housing

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The affordability crisis in rental housing is clear to everyone. Rising rents create hardship for tenants and result in unprecedented profits for large landlords. Taxing those windfall profits to provide affordable housing is the right thing to do. That’s why a broad community coalition of affordable housing and homeless services advocates created Measure U1 and persuaded a unanimous City Council to put it on the ballot.

Measure U1 will raise at least $3.5 million that can be used for affordable housing every year. It increases the business license tax that larger landlords already pay by an average of just $30 per unit per month.

Large landlords can easily afford to pay this tax. They are charging $82 million more in rent per year than just a few years ago. Landlords are prohibited by law from passing this tax onto tenants with few exceptions. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: It takes a special person to lead Berkeley and it’s Laurie Capitelli

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I’ve been living in Berkeley since 1967, then as an entering freshman at the University of California. I attended Cal through the Oakland Induction Center protests, People’s Park, was tear gassed on my way to class, and was among the first graduating class of CNR (Conservation of Natural Resources). In 1976, I opened The Focal Point on Ashby, and have enjoyed living in this wonderfully diverse, and at times, “quite nuts” city. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

It takes a special person to lead Berkeley – it is unique. Most of us have a strong opinion or 10 to share, and therefore, building consensus is an art form. That’s why I strongly support the candidacy of Laurie Capitelli to be our next Mayor. I’ve known Laurie for more than 25 years. We have worked together on the renovation/operation of the Elmwood Theater, collaborating with the City of Berkeley and the community after a fire that caused great damage to the property. We worked with city staff, Mayor Loni Hancock and community leaders to save a city landmark, volunteering countless hours to save the theater, which today provides us with some of the finest films, many independently made. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: Farrow & Ball; The Black Squirrel; The House; The Batchery

Farrow & Ball coming soon to West Berkeley   Photo: Farrow & Ball
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FARROW & BALL Coming soon to the Fourth Street shopping district is Farrow & Ball in the former home of the Claremont II (Claremont Rug Company) which has since relocated to Rockridge. Farrow & Ball Showroom will specialize in interior and exterior eco-friendly paint finishes, wall coverings, and products for preparation and application. Their website tells us they will have an expert service team on hand to offer advice and design schemes. An in-home color consultancy will also be available. Farrow & Ball, 1813 Fourth St., Berkeley 94710  Open Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. 12-5 p.m. Connect with Farrow & Ball on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

THE BLACK SQUIRREL Calling all craftspeople: a new shop is opening soon in Berkeley at 651 Addison St. near the Fourth Street shopping district for all manner of fiber artists. Starting out as a six-month trial pop-up, the shop will carry a collection of yarns and fibers from indie dyers from California and across the U.S. hand-picked by owner Chase Lometa Clark. Her intention is to provide unique, high-quality materials produced by small, mostly women-owned manufacturers. She hopes to attract a “slightly younger, hipper demographic of DIY-er’s than most.” Fabrics and supplies for quilting and sewing will also be on hand and there will be a range of classes, including beginner courses, offered from $5-$25. Chase tells Berkeleyside: “The shop is on the bottom floor of a new apartment building which is dog-friendly and has a great community of residents and building managers behind it. It’s got super tall ceilings and lots of windows in a huge space which means we can have a really awesome workshop space to host classes and special events. The workshop space will always be available for customers to use even when classes aren’t in session.” … Continue reading »

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Photos: It’s harvest time at Berkeley’s wineries

At Donkey and Goat Winery of Fifth Street, humans press the grapes. Photo: Erin Callihan
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The last few weeks have been busy ones for Berkeley’s eight urban wineries. It’s harvest time, so the winery owners have had grapes from Napa, Sonoma, El Dorado, Santa Barbara and other counties delivered to Berkeley. Some fetch the grapes themselves. Once they are delivered to the wineries, they are de-stemmed and crushed (either by feet or with machines). Then the grapes start their fermentation, which ends up (eventually) in wine.

Read more about wine and wineries in the East Bay.

The photos published here show the harvest in full swing. Be sure to try the wines from Berkeley’s wineries, which include Urbano Cellars, Eno Wines, Lusu Cellars, Eight Arms Cellars, Donkey & Goat Winery, Covenant Wines, Broc Cellars and Edmunds St. John. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: Dijital Fix, Yogofina, Urban Remedy, Spokes

An assortment of gadgets on College Avenue Photo: Digital Fix
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DIJITAL FIX It seems like the Elmwood is always expanding its assortment of new shops and among them is the newly opened Dijital Fix Design & Electronics. Originally from Brooklyn, the store made its West Coast debut in San Francisco in 2012, and has just opened its Berkeley location. (The spot used to be Collector, which closed over the summer.) What can you hope to find at Dijital Fix? An eclectic mix of widgets and gadgets and thingamajigs that meet at the intersection of fashion, home decor and electronics. It’s at once a curiosity shop and a resource for functional household items, depending on your interests. Dijital Fix has also kept its San Francisco flagship store at 820 Valencia St. near 19th in the Mission. Dijital Fix is at 2950 College Ave. (at Ashby Avenue). Phone: 510-982-5040. Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m, weekends until 9 p.m. Connect with Dijital Fix on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter.Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley’s minimum wage bungle

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Berkeley’s minimum wage rose to $12.53 an hour on Oct. 1, a brief stopover on its way to $15. By the fall of 2018, the city’s starter wage will have risen 67% in just five years.

While the city’s council members quibbled over how quickly the wage should rise to $15, the city’s small businesses had a more pressing concern: How to keep their doors open when the minimum wage is set at a level without any historical precedent.

The Bay … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council picks Amoeba, Apothecarium as new cannabis dispensaries

Supporters of The Cannabis Center line up for public comment at last night's city council meeting. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley City Council last night approved the city’s fifth and sixth cannabis dispensaries, four months after approving the fourth. A long night of public comment and testimony was followed by a relatively brief discussion by councilmembers before selecting Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective (BC3), 2465 Telegraph Ave. (led by the owners of Amoeba Music), and The Apothecarium, 2578 Shattuck Ave. (from an established San Francisco dispensary).

Proposals from Berkeley Innovative Health, 1229 San Pablo Ave., and The Cannabis Center, 1436 University Ave., failed in their bids, although each attracted some support from members of the council.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

The council heard nearly three hours of testimony and public comment from the four applicants for the two dispensaries. All of the applicants promoted their professionalism and operational excellence, all had long lines of community members speaking in support. A relatively small number of community members raised concerns about location of any of the dispensaries. What differences could be gleaned from the public comment were largely of tone and nuance.

That was on top of a years-long process the applicants went through to select the city’s fourth dispensary, which concluded in May when the council approved the iCann Health Center on Sacramento Street. Because of the “compelling” quality of the applicants, according to Councilman Kriss Worthington, in July the council agreed to allow a fifth and sixth dispensary. The Medical Cannabis Commission had this year exhaustively evaluated the applicants as part of the lengthy decision on a fourth dispensary.

Adding two new dispensaries could add hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax revenues for the city.   … Continue reading »

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Get ready to sweat: 6 new high-end fitness centers are coming to Berkeley

An example of one of Cyclebar's "theaters." Photo: CycleBar
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Berkeley residents are about to get a lot more fit. Or at least have more opportunities to do so.

Four high-end sports facilities will be opening their doors this fall, as will a smaller boutique gym. A fifth national brand hopes to open in Berkeley in 2017.

The five, CycleBar, EquinoxCity Sports Club, Soul Cycle and Orange Fitness are all connected to national or regional franchises that promote state-of-the-art workout equipment, classes set to the latest music, videos, flashing lights and more. Bōld is a father-daughter venture that will feature Pilates equipment and the Lagree training method.

CYCLEBAR  The first to launch will be CycleBar, an indoor bike spinning center, which will open in October at 1929 University Ave., the site of the old Fred’s Market. CycleBar is one of a number of national spinning franchises with cult-like followings (Soul Cycle and Flywheel are others), and is growing at a rapid rate. The company, created by siblings Alex Klemmer and Bill Pryor, started in Boston in 2004. The duo started licensing CycleBar franchises in January 2015 and expect to have about 300 fitness facilities around the country by the end of 2016. … Continue reading »

Local business

Berkeley Honda wins approval to move; appeal possible

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave., the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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One of Berkeley’s largest sales tax generators won a significant victory Thursday night when the city’s zoning board granted use permits to Berkeley Honda to open in the former Any Mountain shop on Shattuck Avenue.

The fight may not be over, however, as neighbors who oppose the project say they may appeal the decision to the Berkeley City Council. Many of those neighbors made their opposition clear Thursday night, with nearly 40 of them testifying during public comment before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board.

Still others who came to speak against the permits reportedly left due to the lateness of the hour. Public testimony did not begin until 10:30 p.m., and the vote did not take place until 1:25 a.m.

Speakers said they support Berkeley Honda and its workers, but don’t think it’s the right location for auto repairs. Until recent years, that type of use was not allowed in their neighborhood, they have said. The Adeline Corridor is also undergoing a public planning process, and neighbors have said that process should have a chance to conclude before significant decisions are made that will impact the neighborhood’s future.

A handful of supporters for Berkeley Honda testified before the board, but all of them were Berkeley Honda employees.  … Continue reading »

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Ask Berkeleyside: Why no toilets at the Solano Stroll?

Solano Stroll 2016. Photo: Steve Crawford
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It wasn’t a conspiracy, and it wasn’t by design. There were no portable toilets at the Solano Stroll on Sunday due to “a simple error,” event organizer Allen Cain of the Solano Avenue Association told Berkeleyside this week.

Exactly whose error is a matter of dispute. Cain said he emailed in the toilet order months before the huge annual event. The alleged service provider says no order was received. 

Cain, who has spearheaded the Solano Stroll for nearly a decade, said he makes all the arrangements the prior April — five months in advance — to ensure he has all the rental supplies he needs. The toilets are usually set up Saturday, the day before the Stroll, to avoid vandalism to the units or to the properties around them.

(Berkeleyside first reported on the missing toilets Monday.)

Saturday, Cain said he was on the avenue at 5 a.m. to mark off the street with chalk, to prepare for the event, before traffic got in the way. Around 11 a.m. or noon, he said, he started wondering where the toilets were. He wasn’t too worried, though, because they sometimes don’t show up until 8 or 9 p.m.

“At about 3-4 o’clock, we start to get a little nervous,” he said Tuesday night. Organizers tried to call the rental service to find out what was going on. But Cain said they could only reach an answering service. The answering service said it had two numbers for United Site Services, the rental company Cain said he ordered the toilets from. But both numbers went to voicemail, and that voicemail was full. … Continue reading »

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Animal-rights activists disrupt Chez Panisse service

chez-panisse-photo-amanda Marsalis
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Berkeley police were called to world-famous restaurant Chez Panisse on Friday night after a group of animal-rights protesters stormed into the dining room and disrupted dinner service.

About 10 people carrying flowers from the group Direct Action Everywhere walked into the downstairs portion of Chez Panisse and asked for the diners’ attentions, according to a press release issued by the group. (Update: See below for a statement issued by Chez Panisse on Monday Sept. 12.)

“I come to you today with a message of compassion,” Matt Johnson, one of the activists, told those seated at tables covered with white tablecloths. “A message on behalf on the billions of animals exploited, who are tortured and killed by humans every year. We are told a lie … that animals exist as commodities for human use… Animals are living feeling individuals. They value their lives and their freedom the same as you and I do. They experience the same pain, the same joy, the same love of life and they have it have it ripped away from them and are brutally killed for the mere crime of being different than ourselves.”

The invasion into Chez Panisse is part of DxE’s “Flowers for Animals” campaign, “which encourages activists to peacefully speak out in stores and restaurants that serve products from animals killed for food about violence against animals on farms across the United States,” according to the press release.

The incident started around 10 p.m. but Chez Panisse management didn’t call the Berkeley Police Department until 11:00 p.m., according to Lt. Alyson Hart.

A Chez Panisse employee described the animal-rights activists as busting into the restaurant “screaming and yelling.”

The group, which was 10-15 strong, according to Hart, refused to leave the restaurant, which was when the restaurant decided to call police. (Update: The group involved two 18-year-olds, a man and woman, from Pleasanton. No other information was available about its members.) … Continue reading »

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Semifreddi’s Café on Claremont Avenue to close

Semifreddi's at 3084 Claremont Avenue will close Sept. 30. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Semifreddi’s Café on Claremont Avenue, a decades-long mainstay for cinnamon bread, baguettes, hot panini, coffee and hot chocolate, will shut its doors Sept. 30.

Tom Frainier, Semifreddi’s president, said several factors led to the decision to close but that sales were not the problem. The lease was coming up for renewal and the rental rate was going up. On top of that, hourly wages are on the upswing.

“We decided it would be increasingly difficult to make money at that location,” he said. He added that it is getting harder and harder to find workers. “We looked at the future and how it’s going to progress. It’s going to be hard for independent cafés to make it long term.”

The closure leaves one Semifreddi’s retail outlet, on Colusa Avenue in Kensington. The Emeryville outlet on Hollis Street closed in 2009.

No employees will be displaced, Frainier said, because several were heading back to college anyway. Others left voluntarily because they did not want to work at the bakery’s Kensington café.
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Opponents reach compromise on Berkeley minimum wage ballot language

Mayoral candidates Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguín butted heads Tuesday night over the minimum wage proposal. Photos: Mark Coplan
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The two sides that placed two different ballot measures regarding the minimum wage on the November ballot reached an agreement in court Thursday that will result in a strange-looking voter information pamphlet.

The supporters of Measure BB, which would have raised the minimum wage to $15 by 2019, and the supporters of Measure CC, which would have raised it to $15 by 2017, have agreed to eliminate their arguments in favor of their respective measures from the ballot. The “Argument in Favor of Measure BB” and the “Argument in Favor of Measure CC’ will now be blank. Both sides will also place identical rebuttals to the measures in the voter information pamphlet, according to City Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

The changes were requested – and accepted by a judge – because the City Council approved a compromise measure that went into effect Aug. 31, raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2018. The new law has made the competing ballot measures moot. … Continue reading »

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