Category Archives: Local business

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:
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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Premier Cru owner had penchant for expensive cars

John Fox, the owner of Premier Cru, holds up his hand at the Feb. 24 meeting of the company's creditors and pledges to tell the truth. He then proceeded to take the Fifth Amendment 50 times. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The embattled owner of the Premier Cru wine business who filed for bankruptcy has declined to provide information about his own financial status because it might affect the FBI criminal investigation into his business dealings, but court records show that he has a taste for fine cars.

   Catch up on the Premier Cru story.

During the last two years, presumably while his business racked up $70 million in debt, John Fox leased a $199,264 2014 Ferrari, as well as a $90,000 2016 two-door Corvette ZO6 with a 650-horsepower engine, according to court documents. Fox stopped making his $2,206 monthly payments on the Ferrari in November, and the company that owns the car, Ferrari Financial Services, is trying to get it back. Wells Fargo Bank is also asking to repossess the Corvette. There will be hearings on those motions on March 16 and March 30. … Continue reading »

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Oscar’s sign to OSCARS home at Berkeley Lab

The iconic Oscar's sign has a new home: ESnet at Berkeley Lab. Photo: ESnet
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Did you wonder what happened to the iconic Oscar’s sign once the restaurant closed for good after flipping burgers in downtown Berkeley for 65 years? Well, we have the answer.

The sign was bought by Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), a research and education network that is managed from Berkeley Lab. Why you might ask? Linda Vu at ESnet explained that the organization provides high-bandwidth connections that link scientists at national laboratories, universities and research institutions around the world, allowing them to solve some of the world’s most important scientific challenges including energy, climate science and the origins of the universe.

The Department of Energy network “is optimized for transferring large scientific datasets,” she said.

One of ESnet’s major achievements in the last couple years has been the development of “OSCARS,” which stands for On-Demand Secure Circuits and Advance Reservation System.

“This software essentially allows researchers who are using ESnet to reserve bandwidth on the network to move massive, time-critical datasets around the world,” she said. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Berkeley’s Nabolom Bakery back in business

Nabolom back in business on Monday Feb. 2016. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Five months after it closed, Nabolom Bakery reopened on a foggy Monday morning, with an enthusiastic line of long-time customers.

“I like supporting a local business, so when it reopens, it’s a joyful thing,” said Jeannie, who didn’t want to provide her last name. She hoped to find the blueberry apricot bran muffin (not today) and the cinnamon twist that she enjoyed in Nabolom’s earlier incarnation.

“Congratulations!” said another customer to new co-owner Julia Elliott. “Still standing!”

“Barely,” said Elliott, who had been working around the clock with her partner, Sabra Stepak, to reopen Nabolom. Elliott and Stepak bought the bakery (including its recipes) from the collective that owned it for four decades.

“I’m excited,” Elliott said. “But I’m so tired, I’m out of my mind. But people love Nabolom.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Nabolom Bakery to reopen Monday

Aron Ford (left) will share baking duties at the new Nabolom Bakery. Here Ford and Julia Elliott discuss  details about the bakery. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Julia Elliott hasn’t been getting much sleep lately as she prepares to re-open Nabolom Bakery which shuttered in August 2015 after nearly 40 years operating in the Elmwood.

For the past few weeks, Elliott and her business partner, Sabra Stepak, have been on overdrive as they stripped away decades of grime from the space at 2708 Russell St., refurbished old but reliable baking equipment, updated the electrical systems, painted, and worked with two bakers to perfect recipes long loved by the community: cinnamon twists, cheese Danishes, challah, multigrain bread, and peanut butter, chocolate chip, and Snickerdoodle cookies, among other goods.

“Who sleeps?” Elliott, 48, said on Monday shortly after placing a large order with the rep from Challenge Butter. “I am working on two hours of sleep a night.”

The push is necessary because opening day is Monday, Feb. 29, at 7 a.m. … Continue reading »

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