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  • Shop Talk: French Hotel, La Botella Republic, more

    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. (more…)

  • Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

    ALEMBIQUE APOTHECARY Alembique Apothecary, a store selling herbs and botanicals for the kitchen and for the body, is set to open at 901 Hearst Ave. (at the corner of Seventh Street), in mid-June. Owner Babak Nahid is remodeling a space on the first floor of one of the oldest buildings in Berkeley. He says customers will be able to create their own soaps and lotions, using ingredients like carrot-seed and sea buckhorn oils. “We purvey predominantly non-GMO, organic, local, wild-crafted/wild-harvested, food-grade and petrochemical-free products, including natural botanical, herbal and mineral ingredients for our bodies and our homes,” the store says on its website. Plans include offering a refill station, an organic blending bar, and a series of workshops at the shop.

  • Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

    CUGINI MANZONE Giuseppe and Michele Manzone opened Cugini Manzone last Thursday night in at 2930 College Ave. in the Elmwood. The restaurant features an Italian wood-fired oven for thin-crust pizza and calzone (the Manzones are also cooking eggplant parmesan and roast chicken in the wood-fired oven), as well as a full menu of Italian antipasti and pastas. The restaurant is only open for dinner at the moment (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.), but plans to open for lunch and mid-afternoon snacks soon. (more…)