Category Archives: Local business

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 »

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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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Rhetoric Coffee roasting symphonic coffee blends

Rhetoric coffee cropped. Photo: Rhetoric Coffee/Facebook
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What do comic books and symphonies have to do with coffee? Not much, unless you’re talking with Rhetoric Coffee co-founders James Parrish and Colin Curtin. The 8-month-old coffee company, based out of Berkeley’s Bay Area CoRoasters, is taking its inspiration from both art forms.

Delivered by mail every two weeks as part of a subscription service, Rhetoric’s beans are not the typical Bay Area single light roast. Instead, Rhetoric is “trying out experimental blending methods, [like mélange roasts], that you don’t see anywhere else,” said Curtin, a web developer with a longstanding dream to get into the coffee industry.

Read more about coffee companies in Berkeley.

Parrish, a Blue Bottle barista and one of the founders of Alchemy Collective Café, is heading up coffee roasting. He may roast one single origin bean two or three ways, ranging from light to dark, and then blend the different roasts to create complexity. Or he’ll roast several different origin beans at different roast levels “to get a wide spectrum of flavors,” said Curtin. … Continue reading »

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Scoop: Off The Grid coming to downtown Berkeley

Pelican Po'Boys at Off the Grid Emeryville. Photo: Off the Grid/Facebook
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Food trucks are coming to downtown Berkeley, offering a new option for Sunday lunch.

Off the Grid will launch a food-truck market in Civic Center Park starting Sunday, Sept. 11. The market will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and offer eight food trucks and live music, along with beer, wine and refreshments from San Francisco bar Lucky 13.

Off the Grid said the rotating line-up of vendors at the new Berkeley location will include Smoke’s Poutine, Canasta, Passione Pizza, Lexie’s Custard, Cupkates, Flavors of Ethiopia, Curry Up Now, Curbside Kitchen, Señor Sisig, and others.

Read more about Off The Grid markets in the East Bay.

The new market represents the fourth time Off The Grid has opened a food truck hub in Berkeley — the three former market all closed down after a couple of years.

Ben Himlan, a spokesman for Off The Grid, said he is hoping the “fourth time is a charm.” He said he felt hopeful about the prospects for the downtown market because of its location next to a park, close to transit and retail. … Continue reading »

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Neighbors express frustration with cannabis club

The Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley sits on the edge of a residential neighborhood and neighbors complain that is some clients are not respectful. Photo: Google Street Maps
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Outside the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley at Shattuck Avenue and Essex Street, the scene is busy.

A black-clad security guard mindfully scans the street, making notes, while a colleague collects trash with a mechanical scoop from the sidewalks. After a few minutes, a black Hyundai Sonata rolls up, booming a track from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The noise prompts the manager of Café La Renaissance across the street to close the door in apparent frustration.

CBCB,  at 3033 Shattuck Ave., is a popular medical cannabis dispensary, at least judging from the amount of foot traffic on a weekday afternoon. Its supporters and customers praise it, and dispensary employees make an earnest attempt to monitor the immediate vicinity of the operation — at least when reporters are lurking. But the occasionally loud and frenetic activity outside its doors has riled some in the neighborhood.

Read more about Berkeley’s medical cannabis clubs.

More than a dozen neighbors, many of whom would speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, expressed displeasure with a host of issues they say those hanging around outside the dispensary bring to the neighborhood. High on that list are double parking, driveway blocking and smoking pot in vehicles prior to driving off — all of which the residents Berkeleyside spoke with pointed out are illegal.

“It’s not a drug issue, it’s the people,” one neighbor told Berkeleyside outside his home. He added that he didn’t think the dispensary’s security guards spend enough time making sure CBCB’s customers leave the neighborhood after they acquire cannabis. … Continue reading »

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Eatsa in Berkeley automates the dining experience

Scott Drummond, the co-founder of Eatsa, outside the Telegraph Avenue branch. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The new automated eatery Eatsa on Telegraph Avenue will hold its grand opening Tuesday and its founders hope it will appeal to health-minded individuals in a hurry. As Nosh reported in July, Berkeley is the third Bay location for the unusual restaurant, which has two outposts in San Francisco, as well as one in Los Angeles.

Visitors who stop by the sleek restaurant at 2334 Telegraph Ave., about a half-block south of campus (in the former Crêpes A-Go-Go), can order vegetarian salads, bento boxes, burrito bowls and quinoa bowls with a variety of toppings and dressings from one of the iPad-equipped kiosks. And while they won’t see anyone making their food – the production process is a well-guarded trade secret – their order will be ready to pick up from glass boxes in just a few minutes. Alternatively, diners can order on an app and have their bowls waiting when they arrive.

“We have an incredibly convenient experience,” Scott Drummond, one of the co-founders, said Friday at a press preview. “People can get their food within two to three minutes. It’s all really flavorful, satisfying and super nutritious with a price people correlated with fast food.” … Continue reading »

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Merchants see recent changes on Telegraph Avenue as mostly positive

Mad Monk interior Photo Courtesy Stuart Baker
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As Mel Ash presents a potential site for a new mural on the Haste Street-side wall of the recently opened Mad Monk: Center for Anachronistic Media on Telegraph Avenue, a woman standing nearby methodically tears a book apart. Pulling one page at a time from the old volume, she carefully sets each page on the pavement in an array around her. After finishing his description, Ash turns to the woman and reminds her not to make a mess — that she can hang out, but he won’t tolerate her littering outside Mad Monk. “I’ll pull up my pants, and put my shoes on,” she grumbles, and promises to tidy the pages.

Read more about Telegraph Avenue on Berkeleyside.

Claiming that Telegraph Avenue has shaken its “seen better days” reputation and been completely revitalized would be a mistake. To wit, across the avenue from Mad Monk on the northeast corner of Telegraph and Haste, the infamous Heroin Hotel lot remains a fenced-off vacant lot. A Drug Free Zone city sign there has been altered by an unknown interloper to read simply “Drug Zone.” … Continue reading »

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Premier Cru owner used coffee shop as hook-up HQ

John Fox, left, at the counter of a Fourth Street store with a young woman. Fox, who admitted to spending $900K to meet women online, drew attention because he showed up so often.
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John Fox, the corrupt owner of wine retailer Premier Cru, didn’t travel far when he spent $900,000 of embezzled funds on women he met online.

The lanky 66-year-old with fading red hair used to meet scantily dressed 20-year-olds at least two or three times a week at Artís Coffee on Berkeley’s Fourth Street, less than a five-minute drive from his offices at 1011 University Ave., according to observers.

Fox met the young women so frequently that workers in the neighborhood took note. Some of them even started to snap photos of Fox with various dates because they were curious how a middle-aged man connected with so many young women who looked 40 years younger than him.

“He picked up girls literally a couple times a week,” said one worker, who asked that his name not be used. “They were always really young. You never saw him with the same girl twice.” … Continue reading »

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