Tag Archives: University Avenue

Troubles mount for Premier Cru as FBI steps in

In December 2011, John Fox was all smiles as he held large scissors to cut the ribbon for the grand opening of Premier Cru's new retail store at 1011 University Ave. Photo: Premier Cru
Print Friendly

The troubles of John E. Fox, the co-owner of the high-end wine company, Premier Cru, are mounting.

The FBI confirmed Wednesday that it is looking into the company, which filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 8 listing assets of $7 million and liabilities of $70 million.

Read more on the Premier Cru story.

“The FBI is investigating claims of a Ponzi scheme involving the Berkeley wine company Premier Cru,” said spokeswoman Michele Ernst. “It appears there is enough evidence that the FBI has determined an investigation is warranted.”

Ernst is asking anyone with complaints, concerns, or tips to email them at a specially created email address, premiercru.complaints@ic.fbi.gov. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley’s Premier Cru paid its tech staffer in wine

Seven customers are suing Premier Cru, a wine retailer at 1011 University Ave., for not delivering wine they had purchases. Photo: Gordon Commercial Realty
Print Friendly

Update 2/6/16: The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into Fox Ortega Enterprises, which owns Premier Cru.

Court documents filed by the bankruptcy trustee on Feb. 5 disclosed that”the FBI is investigating this matter.” Previously, the FBI Had only acknowledged it was taking calls from disgruntled customers.

Original story: As John E. Fox, the co-owner of the embattled wine retailer Premier Cru was struggling with his company’s enormous debt, he asked if he could charge $25,000 on his IT technician’s credit card.

Brian Nishi, a computer expert who had worked for Fox for 20 years, agreed, according to court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. But when Fox could not repay Nishi, he gave him $25,000 worth of wine instead, according to court documents.

For that reason, the U.S. Trustee for Region 17 is objecting to the hiring of Nishi to help search through a secret computer that Fox may have used to keep track of his debts. Tracey Hope Davis wrote to bankruptcy judge William J. Lafferty that Nishi, who was also Premier Cru’s in-house tech specialist since 2008, had a conflict of interest. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lasher’s Electronics may be forced to close after 56 years

Ellen and Bob Lasher's electronics store was deemed seismically unsafe in 1991. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Print Friendly

Al Lasher’s Electronics may be on the brink of closing after 56 years at 1734 University Ave.

The city of Berkeley deemed the building, near McGee Avenue, seismically unsafe in 1991, requiring the owners to retrofit the property by 1997. Lasher’s was one of 587 buildings to receive this mandate under the city’s seismic hazard mitigation program for unreinforced masonry buildings. Twenty-five years later, it is one of eight that remain on the list.

The city issued the owners, siblings Bob and Ellen Lasher, numerous notices and citations over the years. A final 2015 notice, which the Lashers appealed, warned the shop owners of the city’s intent to put a lien of $3,125 — the amount of recent outstanding citations — on the property. At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to halt fees and defer filing the lien, giving the owners 90 days to apply for a building permit for the retrofit and one year to pull the permit.

The Lashers say they are unsure they can afford to retrofit and stay open. They have received bids to do the retrofitting work ranging from $150,000-$300,000, Bob Lasher said. The retrofit would also require Lasher’s to close for at least two months, which would be a blow to business, he added. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Broken elevator strands disabled Berkeley tenants

The Acton Courtyard elevator has been broken since Nov. 13. Image: Google Maps
Print Friendly

A broken elevator at a Berkeley apartment building owned by Equity Residential has left numerous tenants with mobility issues in the lurch this holiday season, and building management has been slow to handle the problem, residents report.

The single elevator at The Acton Courtyard, at 1370 University Ave. (at Acton Street), broke down 11 days ago, Nov. 13, after months on the fritz, tenants say. At least six tenants in the building have mobility impairments. The broken elevator has left them “trapped in their apartments or stranded outside of them,” according to a Nov. 20 letter sent to Equity by Disability Rights Advocates.

“This means that they have either been completely shut off from the outside world or completely stranded within it—unable to cook, unable to access their clothing or other possessions, and denied the basic comforts of their homes,” according to Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based nonprofit and nationally recognized legal center focused on disability rights.

The letter was written on behalf of tenants Dominika Bednarska and her partner Perlita Payne, who have lived in the building for more than three years, along with other unnamed residents. Bednarska uses a scooter to get around, and Payne has chronic knee pain that makes climbing stairs difficult. The couple live on the fifth floor at The Courtyard, and have been in a hotel since the Nov. 13 elevator breakdown. Equity is covering the hotel costs, but tenants say the company has not taken the problem seriously enough.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Equity Residential to sell 8 Berkeley apartment buildings

Four of the Berkeley properties Equity Residential is selling. Photo: Eastdil Secured
Print Friendly

Equity Residential, which owns eight buildings with 452 apartments in Berkeley, as well as the entitlement rights to build the 205-unit Acheson Commons complex on University Avenue, is putting its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale.

No price is mentioned on the listing documents prepared by Eastdil Secured, Equity’s advisor and broker, but the sale should be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That could mean millions of dollars in transfer taxes for Berkeley’s general fund. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Fire

West Berkeley fire causes $100,000 in damage

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to an apartment fire Monday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

The Berkeley Fire Department responded Monday to an apartment fire on University Avenue that caused $100,000 in damage.

Interim Berkeley Fire Chief Avery Webb said the fire department received a report just before 10:40 a.m. of a water-flow alarm from the fire suppression system at 1122 University, just east of San Pablo Avenue.

The city dispatched a single-alarm assignment for a possible structure fire.

When firefighters got to the 5-story building — four stories of residential over ground-floor commercial — they found light smoke on the fourth floor, and water flowing from under an apartment door.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Flour & Co. quietly opened this week in Berkeley

2015-09-29 08.35.16
Print Friendly

The wait is finally over. University Avenue has gotten a bakery back.

Flour & Co. has been building out the former Bread Workshop space since February, and opened its doors for a soft opening Sept. 29. A more formal grand opening will be held Oct. 5.

Owner Emily Day told NOSH on Wednesday that business is going smoothly so far. She said the first day was slower than this morning, and expects sales to keep picking up as word gets out about the opening.

The Berkeley bakery is the second location for Flour & Co., and it was designed (beautifully, we might add) by local architects Abueg Morris. Day opened her first retail spot in Nob Hill about two and a half years ago. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Police

Motorcycle crash in West Berkeley sends 1 to hospital

A motorcycle crash sent one person to the hospital Tuesday night. Photo: Citizen reporter
Print Friendly

A motorcycle rider was taken to the hospital Tuesday night after police say he collided with a vehicle on University Avenue.

According to authorities, the motorcyclist was traveling westbound on University approaching Acton Street at about 7:35 p.m. when he collided with the passenger side of a sedan that was eastbound on University attempting to turn left onto Acton.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said the motorcyclist suffered serious injuries and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he is still being treated. The driver of the sedan was not injured.

Coats said the department received multiple 911 calls about the crash. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

The Bread Project returns to Berkeley this fall

The Bread Project has moved to 1615 University Ave. (at California). Photo: Kate Williams
Print Friendly

The Crayola-blue storefront at 1615 University Ave. has stood empty for three years, slowly collecting window graffiti and dust. But this June, signs of life began to appear. Baking racks appeared in the windows. Long wooden work tables filled the room. Soon, a sign appeared on the front door: The Bread Project is moving in.

Founded in 2001 by Lucie Buchbinder and Susan Phillips, The Bread Project trains low-income individuals in food service skills — specifically baking —  and helps them find and retain jobs across the service and culinary industry. Its students come from many walks of life. About 30% are formerly incarcerated individuals, 20% are refugees and new immigrants and others that have other significant barriers to employment. “Everybody is starting over, starting anew,” said Valerie Afroilan, the senior director of programs. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Three Stone Hearth embraces traditional diets

Jessica Prentice, a co-founder of Three Stone Hearth. Photo: Foster Wiley
Print Friendly

by Lila Volkas, Bay Area Bites

As I entered the long narrow refrigerator at Three Stone Hearth, I scanned walls of shelves, lined with innumerable jars containing various broths, stews and spreads. As a devoted fan of glass jars (I even have one tattooed on my arm), I was looking forward to learning more about Three Stone Hearth’s commitment to local, organic, nutrient-dense, sustainably-sourced and packaged foodstuffs. The Berkeley-based business has developed a unique model for community-scale food preparation and processing that provides a weekly menu of ready-made food items for pickup or delivery. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Photographs: An ode to the shuttered Berkeley pier

The Berkeley pier by Dorothy Brown
Print Friendly

By Dorothy Brown

There is something mysterious and perhaps even romantic about abandoned spaces. The rust and decay can have a certain kind of beauty, and can engage our imaginations as we wonder what the place might have been like in its prime. Movies often employ a time-fade technique where decrepitude is gradually replaced by the life and color of earlier years. A different time.

How strange, then, to witness the day the change happens. The day a familiar site goes from lively to off-limits.

On July 22, 2015, without warning or ceremony, the Berkeley Pier was fenced off and closed to the public. The pier has long been a favorite spot for fisherfolk, runners, strollers, and anyone who appreciates a knockout view and a breathtaking sunset. I always found it a friendly place. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Community

Citing structural problems, Berkeley closes historic pier

The historic Berkeley pier has been closed to the public due to structural problems. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

The city of Berkeley has announced the closure of its historic municipal fishing pier due to “considerable structural damage” that has made the popular walkway unsafe for the public.

Damage to the concrete decking and support system of the pier was found during an assessment earlier this summer. Signage and fencing have been posted in the area to cut off access pending the repairs, but where the money will come from to fix the problem remains an open question. The city did not respond Thursday to a request for additional information.

The announcement, in a memo from the city manager to the Berkeley City Council, was posted online Thursday. It comes after a decision earlier in the month to prohibit heavy trucks on the pier due to the structural issues. As a result, the city paid $7,900 to set off its Fourth of July fireworks from a barge rather than using the historic walkway, which juts out into the San Francisco Bay at the end of University Avenue.

The city discovered the structural damage prior to July 4 when it began looking into proposed repairs that would have made the pier smoother for wheelchairs, a city staffer told the Parks and Waterfront Commission earlier this month. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kobani Kurdish restaurant: Defiant and delicious

Kobani's owner Emin Tekin
photo: Anna Mindess
Print Friendly

Kobani’s succulent chunks of chicken kebab, creamy hummus, moist dolmas, richly flavored lentil soup and generous gyros are a welcome addition to the corner of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley.

But there is more to this new casual dining spot than meets the mouth.

The name of the restaurant may be familiar if you follow the news. Kobani, a city in northern Syria, was the site of the biggest defeat dealt to ISIS by Kurdish soldiers. But the four-month-long battle that raged from September 2014 until ISIS militants were driven out in January resulted in the widespread destruction of the 100-year-old city that was famous for its olive-oil and cultural diversity. And in a recent, disheartening reversal in June, Islamic State militants re-entered Kobani, killing dozens of civilians. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,