Police arrest 3 after armed, masked restaurant robbery series, 9 in Berkeley

Approximate, block-level, locations of seven of the nine restaurant robberies in March and April. Source: CrimeMapping/Berkeleyside
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Police arrested three men Friday after an investigation into a series of robberies that saw armed, masked perpetrators holding up a total of 23 restaurants in the Bay Area, nine of which were in Berkeley.

The “take-over-style” robberies began at the beginning of March, according to a Nixle alert sent out by BPD at around 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

Sgt. Andrew Frankel, spokesman for BPD, said the suspects were masked and had guns. He described a “take-over-style” robbery as those using  “force and fear.”

The three men arrested were Kristoffer Jones, 18, of Albany; Shawan Spragans, 40, of Oakland; and Merl Simpson, 46, also of Oakland.

The 23 restaurants — primarily in Berkeley, San Francisco, San Leandro, Albany, Oakland and Hayward — were being targeted shortly before, or just after, closing time by the same suspects, according to the BPD statement.

The break in the case came just after midnight Friday, April 22, when the men attempted to rob a bar in San Francisco that was under surveillance by the San Francisco Police Department. … Continue reading »

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Junior Reggae bring sleek sounds of Jamaica to Jupiter

Junior Reggae (Rob Ewing, Jason Levis, and Steven Blum) play Jupiter Tuesdays in May. Photo by Eric Vogler.
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When Caribbean rhythms seduce a jazz musician, Cuba is usually the alluring culprit. But for multi-instrumentalist Rob Ewing the loping grooves of Jamaica have proven irresistible. An accomplished drummer and skilled trombonist who performs every Sunday with the Electric Squeezebox Orchestra at Doc’s Lab in North Beach, Ewing holds down the bass chair in three reggae combos, including the 10-piece Pavlov’s Band, the five-piece Reggae On the Radio, and the trio Junior Reggae, which plays Jupiter every week in May as part of the pub’s Tuesday Jazzidency series.

Featuring Steven Blum on keyboards and drummer Jason Levis, Junior Reggae is an instrumental ensemble that was born in Berkeley. Ewing and Levis have been making music together since their undergrad days in Boulder at Naropa University (where they both studied with piano legend Art Lande). Since arriving in the Bay Area in the early aughts, they’ve played in a variety of settings together, but it was reggae that forged their connection as a rhythm-section tandem. As the director of the Jazzschool Community Music School, Ewing was on hand when Levis, an associate professor at the California Jazz Conservatory, needed a bassist for a reggae class. … Continue reading »

The Berkeley Wire: 04.27.16

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Big Screen double bill: ‘Dough’ and ‘Pali Road’

Dough, starring
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One of the doughtiest of British film genres is the ‘eccentric Brit’ comedy-drama. From The Full Monty to Kinky Boots, UK filmmakers have long been drawn to tales featuring starchy, conservative Britons trapped in uncomfortable or awkward situations that force them to, well, become a little less starchy and conservative.

Dough (opening at Landmark Theatres Albany Twin Cinema on Friday, April 29) is the latest example of the style. Directed by television veteran John Goldschmidt, the film stars Jonathan Pryce as Nat Dayan, an orthodox Jewish baker clinging to an ailing family business in London’s rapidly gentrifying East End.

The awkward situation comes in the form of Sudanese immigrant Ayyash (Jerome Holder). A Muslim refugee from Darfur, young Ayyash is employed by big time pot dealer Victor (Ian Hart) to sell wacky tobacky – but only if he has a ‘cover job’ to serve as a front. … Continue reading »

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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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‘Farmsteads’ celebrates our local food purveyors

erinscottphotography_farmsteadsofthecaliforniacoast-pieranch_7722
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Award-winning journalist Sarah Henry, for many years Berkeleyside’s food writer, has just published her first book: Farmsteads of the California Coast. The book profiles 12 innovative farmsteads through an exploration of their sustainable practices, the delicious produce they grow and the food they make. The book’s photographer is Erin Scott, author of Yummy Supper (and an occasional Nosh contributor). The book includes 24 recipes courtesy of publisher Lisa McGuinness, an accomplished home cook. We talked to Henry about the thinking behind the beautiful tome, and what she learned while researching and writing it.

What led you to writing this book?

I was approached to write the book by Yellow Pear Press publisher Lisa McGuinness. Lisa had visited Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, was charmed by the whole experience, and wanted to know more about the coastal farmers who grow and produce the diverse and delicious food we are fortunate enough to eat. … Continue reading »

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Where in Berkeley?

Where in Berkeley?

WIB

Know where this is? Take a guess and let us know in the Comments, below.

Photo: Myra Wysinger.

Send your submissions for “Where in Berkeley?” to tips@berkeleyside.com. The more obscure the better —  just as long as the photos are taken in Berkeley. Thanks in advance.

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Fire in Berkeley apartment building displaces around 30

Fire on Shattuck at Delaware on April 26, 2016. Photo: @panellington/Twitter
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Update, April 27: BFD says the rough monetary value of the damage caused by the fire and burst water pipe is $100,000. BFD also confirmed that they went back to the apartment building later on the night of April 26 to handle “a small amount of burning material in the attic.”

Original story: Approximately 30 residents of an apartment building on the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Delaware Street in Berkeley were displaced Tuesday evening following a fire and subsequent water damage, according to authorities. … Continue reading »

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The Berkeley Wire: 04.26.16

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Crime

Sister of man charged with 2 murders takes the stand

Darnell Williams Jr. mugshot, courtesy of NBC Bay Area
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The older sister of a Berkeley man who could face the death penalty if found guilty of two fatal shootings in 2013 testified on his behalf Monday, but her testimony may have done more harm than good.

Chastity Williams, sister of Darnell Williams Jr., told the jury why she instructed her son — struck by a fragment from a bullet he said his uncle fired — not to talk to police about what he’d seen. She also disputed her son’s story that he would get “a whuppin” if he didn’t keep quiet.

“He fibs,” she said of her son, who was 7 at the time of shooting. As to why she told him not to speak with police, she said: “As a parent, I wanted to figure out what was going on first before Elliot spoke to anyone. He’s a kid. Why would I want to put my child through that?”

On cross-examination, however, Williams admitted to having told police her son was “very accurate.” She repeatedly changed her story and tried to explain inconsistencies in her statements. Direct examination, by the defense, lasted less than 15 minutes. Prosecutor John Brouhard then questioned her for nearly two hours on cross-examination.

Read complete coverage of the case.

Williams said her son made up the threat of a beating to try to stop authorities from questioning him after the Sept. 8, 2013, shooting that killed 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III in West Berkeley. Police arrested Darnell Williams, then 22, near the scene. The two young men were both familiar faces in what some who live in the area call “the Waterfront” neighborhood and hung out with the same friends.

Defense attorney Darryl Billups, who called Chastity Williams, 27, to the stand, asked if she had been trying to protect her brother when she told her son not to speak with police. She said that had not been her goal.

When she walked up to the stand Monday morning, Williams gave a little wave and smile to her younger brother as he sat at the defense table. Seeing the friendly face was likely a change for the defendant, who has not had any apparent supporters in the courtroom over the past month. … 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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2-Minute Tip: Set up your party for success

Hugh Groman provides advice on setting up for a party in his latest 2-Minute Tip video

Hugh Groman provides advice on setting up for a party in his latest 2-Minute Tip video, sponsored by Stuart Event Rentals

Sometimes it’s the simplest preparations that can be the most valuable when planning a party or a gathering at home.

In the video below, sponsored by Stuart Event Rentals, Hugh Groman, who runs two successful catering companies and a restaurant in Berkeley, offers valuable tips on laying the groundwork so both you and your guests have the best possible time.

In his latest 2-Minute Tip video, Chef Hugh Groman offers advice on preparing for a party at home. Continue reading »

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In the hands of feminist press, Calamity Jane rides again

calamity
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By Judith Coburn

What was the best book the actor Ethan Hawke read last year? Calamity Jane’s Letters to her Daughter. (The second was Berkeley writer Greil Marcus’s A History of Rock ‘n Roll in Ten Songs) When Alta Gerrey, founder of Shameless Hussy Press, the first feminist publisher in America, heard about those choices, she rushed to her favorite Copymat on College Avenue to run off 50 new copies of the Calamity Jane book. Shameless Hussy had initially published Calamity Jane’s letters in paperback in 1976; its first edition is now selling on Amazon for $300. Hawke’s endorsement was followed by a recent shout-out from a blogger at The Paris Review.

“Calamity Jane is a feminist icon,” said Alta, who prefers to go by her first name as she did as a poet for many years on the Berkeley poetry scene.

Alta said Calamity Jane has taken her licks from mainstream biographers and filmmakers, like the men who made HBO’s Deadwood. “They just depict her as a drunk and a whore,” she said. Historians of the West quarrel over whether she was really married to Wild Bill Hickok and whether he is the father of Janey to whom the letters are written. Some regard the letters as fiction. … Continue reading »

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