Category Archives: Local business

New Berkeley Spats hopes to open by April

Mark Rhoades and Nathan George (right) are re-opening Spats. Photo: Katie Gladstein
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It’s taken longer than expected, but the Spats team in Berkeley is aiming for a soft opening in April, with an eye toward reviving old traditions while doing a good bit of sprucing, too, its operators said Monday.

Local developer Nathan George told Berkeleyside in August that he wanted to re-open Spats, at 1974 Shattuck Ave. (near Berkeley Way), by the fall. He said this week that finding the right management group and getting the liquor license transferred took longer than he’d foreseen.

“Everybody we received offers from wanted to gut it and change the name,” said George, who explained last year that he wanted to bring back the institution, rather than launch a new business in the space where Spats had existed, at one point called Oleg’s, since the 1950s.

He said he and Mark Rhoades, under the name Berkeley Soiree Life, decided around October to run Spats themselves, with the help of Tonic Nightlife Group, which has seven bars in San Francisco.

“We’re going to bring back the Fog Cutter,” said George, of one iconic Spats drink. “It will feel like Spats, but Spats in the 21st century.” … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Biryani House on University and Shattuck has closed its doors for good. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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CLOSED: BIRYANI HOUSE A few bereaved Berkeleyside readers have asked what happened to the popular Indian restaurant at 2011 Shattuck Ave. While some hoped Biryani House was just temporarily closed for renovations, the bad news is that it is gone for good, according to Shifra Benedictis-Kessner, the marketing manager at the Downtown Berkeley Association. The property was sold last year to a new owner, then leased to co-working company WeWork, which started opening floors of office space there in January. [Read Berkeleyside’s story on WeWork.] … Continue reading »

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WeWork opens office space to downtown Berkeley

WeWork's office building in downtown Berkeley with newly painted murals by xxx. Photo: William Newton
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WeWork, which has been called the country’s leading co-working company and is expanding globally at a rapid rate, according to the business press, has opened in downtown Berkeley.

Monday, Feb. 2, the company opened a new raft of offices on the seventh floor of the building at 2120 University Ave. (at Shattuck Avenue). This followed the launch of two other floors, on the fifth and sixth stories, in early January. And passers-by won’t have failed to notice the vibrant murals that have appeared on two façades of the structure. They were created by New York-based artist Jason Woodside.

WeWork plans to roll out three more floors of space by June 1, at which point there will be 45,000 square feet of office space potentially housing about 600 people in the six-story building, said Aja Anderson, WeWork Berkeley‘s community manager. As a result, it has fast become the city’s largest co-working facility. … Continue reading »

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Comedian W. Kamau Bell reports being victim of racism at Berkeley’s Elmwood Café

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By Tracey Taylor and Frances Dinkelspiel

UPDATE: 1.30.15: The Elmwood Café posted on its Facebook page around noon that it has fired the employee who made the unacceptable remark.

UPDATE, 1.29.15, 6:40 p.m.: Bell posted on his Facebook page at 4:48 p.m that he spoke to Pearce after this article was published. He wrote: “My wife & I just talked to Michael Pearce, the owner of Elmwood Cafe, & we’ve decided to have a public conversation about this. Details soon.” On its Facebook page, the Elmwood Café appears to have deleted its first post in which it expressed how horrified it was (see a screen-grab captured by Berkeleyside). At 5:31 p.m., it posted the following: “We have reached out [sic] Mr. Kamau Bell and expressed to him how truly sorry we are. He and his wife have graciously accepted our invitation to have an open dialogue about the incident, and what steps can be taken. This conversation will be forthcoming and transparent and public as to what went wrong, and what actions we take to rectify what happened.”

ORIGINAL STORY: A popular African American comedian took to the Internet on Thursday to complain that an employee of the Elmwood Café on College Avenue told him to “scram,” or words to that effect, Monday while he was talking to his white wife and her friends at one of its outdoor tables.

W. Kamau Bell, who performs regularly in Bay Area comedy clubs, said he was shocked when the employee tapped on the window from inside the café and indicated that he should leave the area. The employee apparently thought Bell might be trying to sell something. Bell said he was dressed in a dark Oaklandish-brand hoodie at the time.

“It is the definition of prejudice,” Bell, a Berkeley resident, said. “They looked at me, they judged me against other people, an idea they had in their head about what a person like me is going to do, and then they acted in stupidity and ignorance.” … Continue reading »

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Mrs. Dalloway’s to give Berkeley teachers $100 in books

Mrs. Dalloway's books
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Every kindergarten and first grade teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District will soon have the opportunity to buy $100 worth of books, thanks to an offer made by Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore and the best-selling author James Patterson.

The bookstore at 2904 College Ave. applied for a grant from Patterson to distribute gift certificates to teachers. It learned this week it had gotten $8,500, according to Marion Abbott, one of the store’s owners. That means 85 teachers will get $100 apiece.

“It’s very exciting,” said Abbott. “Unlike some book stores that are putting in new floors or buying vans, we are putting the money into teachers’ hands. I think it is really going to make a difference.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley cannabis club Forty Acres is a nightmare

Forty Acres cannabis collective is on the second floor of 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Last week, after nearly four years of wrangling, the City Council declared the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective at 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. a nuisance. The city has ordered Forty Acres and its owner, Chris Smith, to remove all cannabis-related material from the premises by today. Berkeley plans to inspect the premises on Jan. 29.

Carol Denney lives near Forty Acres and in this Opinionator piece, she argues that the medical cannabis club has not been a good neighbor. She also expresses concern that some city councilmembers made “supportive noises” recently to help the club remain in its current location. Denney says that because of rude customers, blocked driveways, persistent and pervasive marijuana smoke, that should not happen. Add your voice in the comments section of the op-ed.Continue reading »

Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

OKC North provides an intimate setting for Berkeley's kettleball enthusiasts. Photo: OKC North
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NEW: OKC NORTH Replacing the old Juno Fitness at 3007 Sacramento St., OKC North has been the go-to place for all kettlebell-related fitness since it opened last August. Popular in Russia and Eastern Europe, kettlebell exercises revolve around lifting cannonball-like weights — they can weigh up to 70 pounds — as fast as possible. In addition to hosting kettlebell tournaments for national and international weightlifters, OKC North provides boot camps and private training for as little as $135/month. … Continue reading »

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Grumpy Cat comes to Berkeley Humane in style, fanfare

Grumpy Cat, held by her owner Tabatha Bundesen, poses with City Councilmember Linda Maio and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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With a police-escorted motorcade fit for a foreign ambassador or an A-list Hollywood star, viral internet star Grumpy Cat rolled into Berkeley in style Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of fans waited outside Berkeley Humane at 2700 9th St. to catch a glimpse of Grumpy Cat, who has a permanent scowl on her face and millions of fans on social media. Tucked in the arms of her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, Grumpy Cat oversaw the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Berkeley Humane’s new mobile adoption center.

Following the ceremony, Grumpy Cat held a private photo session with her fans. Tickets for an up close and personal were reserved long before Saturday. The opportunity to take a photo of Grumpy Cat — or with, for the lucky fans who registered for the photo session in time — drew residents from beyond the Bay Area. … Continue reading »

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Dollar Tree pulls soda off shelves after soda tax

The Dollar Tree chain pulled sodas and sugary drinks from its shelves following the passage of Measure D in November. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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Shoppers at the two Dollar Tree stores in Berkeley will no longer find sodas and sugary drinks on their shelves following the passage of the soda tax last November.

In the Dollar Tree discount store on 2440 Shattuck Ave., the refrigerators once full of soda bottles are now stocked with water. The other Dollar Tree store in Berkeley, on 1284 San Pablo Ave., has also removed its sugary drinks.

Dollar Tree — which sells a variety of products for $1 or less and has more than 5,200 stores in North America — decided to pull out sodas in its Berkeley stores when the soda tax went into effect on Jan. 1, according to Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Hollywood comes to Berkeley for Steve Jobs movie with Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Michael Fassbender

The film set at La Méditerranée on College Avenue Friday night. Photo: Ted Friedman
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The 2900 block of College Avenue in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood was transformed into a mid-1980s scene on Friday night, as director Danny Boyle filmed a scene for a new Steve Jobs biopic at La Méditerranée.

Period cars from the 1980s were parked on the street, and the producers had put out a casting call for men with long hair and facial hair, and women with “natural hair colors” to match the 1980s to 1990s time period.

While scores of curious onlookers hung out on College, sightings of the film’s stars — Michael Fassbender (who plays Steve Jobs), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak), Jeff Daniels (John Sculley), and Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman), were fleeting, at best. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley tells cannabis collective to shut down

Toya Groves and Chris Smith listen at the Jan. 20 city council meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Even though more than 40 people testified about the importance of the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective to the black community, the Berkeley City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to declare it a public nuisance.

But the decision, which came almost four years after Berkeley officials first told its co-founder, Chris Smith, that his cannabis collective was operating illegally, may not be the last word on the operation. Lee Hepner, Smith’s attorney, said before the meeting that they would almost certainly challenge the action in court. Any legal challenge would join the three other lawsuits that Smith currently has pending against Berkeley and a number of employees.

Read more about medical marijuana issues in Berkeley.

Another possibility is for Smith to apply for the permit to open a fourth dispensary in the city. Applicants have until March 20 to declare they are interested. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to decide if cannabis collective must go

Chris Smith talked to a community group on Jan. 17, 2015 about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city of Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Almost four years after Berkeley first informed the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective that it was operating illegally in its San Pablo Avenue location, the Berkeley City Council will consider declaring it a public nuisance tonight.

The city has been tussling with Forty Acres and its co-founder Chris Smith for so long that the agenda packet with background information is more than 1,000 pages long. Berkeleyside has created a timeline (after the jump) with some of the highlights of the fight between Forty Acres and the city of Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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New Safeway on College Avenue opens to crowds

A new 45,000-square foot Safeway opened on College Ave. on Jan. 15. Photo: Celia McCarthy
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Hundreds of people jammed into the spanking new Safeway store on College Avenue on Thursday. Most were there to gawk at the shiny surfaces or taste a variety of free samples, but plenty of people were there to shop, happy to have a large grocery store back in the neighborhood.

The new store is 45,000 square feet and cost about $35 million to build, according to Chris Pattillo, chair of the Oakland Planning Commission, who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The store employs about 160 people, and 65 of those union jobs are new, she said.

“We’re excited,” Bernard Hardy, Safeway’s vice president of retail operations told the crowd that had assembled for the in-store speeches. “Tell your neighbors we’re back. We’re excited about being back in the neighborhood.” … Continue reading »

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