After more than four decades serving coffee, pastries and late-night grub, downtown Berkeley cafe and restaurant Au Coquelet is closing Friday, staff told Berkeleyside.
Cal Dining is listed as the restaurant’s most recent owner on Berkeley’s planning department website. The owner told employees on Wednesday that the restaurant’s last day would be Friday, staff said.
The eatery, located on the corner of University Avenue and Milvia Street, opened in 1976 and catered to a wide array of customers — from UC Berkeley students seeking a late-night study spot to neighborhood seniors who gathered in its back room for lunch and gossip. It even served as an office of sorts for Mike Lee’s 2016 mayoral race. The cafe’s pre-pandemic late hours — it was open until 1:30 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends — made it a rare find in Berkeley.
Au Coquelet is closing Friday at 9 p.m.
On its website, the cafe describes itself as “Berkeley’s early morning and late night place to be,” and “one of the only cafes in Berkeley to feature a selection of top-shelf liquors and premium beers on tap.”
The cafe’s menu ran the gamut from sandwiches and burgers, including more recently the plant-based Impossible Burger, to cherry pie and iced lattes with whipped cream. It baked its cakes and pastries in house and used locally sourced meat, produce and dairy. In February, before Berkeley went into lockdown for the coronavirus, it was offering a drink special — a free plate of wings with the purchase of a pitcher of beer.
It was a relatively peaceful spot to enjoy a bite, hold a meeting, study or work. Last year, Nosh included the cafe in a list of nearly 30 restaurants where noise was unlikely to be a factor. “The back dining room of this no-frills haunt is undeniably quiet,” wrote reporter Joanna Della Penna.
Lani Wild lives next door to Au Coquelet — which is French for “spring chicken” — and had become a regular there since she moved to the neighborhood as a UC Berkeley student in 2001.
“Au Coquelet was the first place my parents and I had breakfast before they dropped me off at college,” Wild told Berkeleyside Friday. “Over the years I’ve taken more notice of elderly people in the neighborhood who would hang out there — it’s a catch-up locale for them.”
Wilde sees the closure as part of a greater trend as the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements strain local businesses’ bottom lines.
“It’s emblematic of something that all neighborhoods are facing,” Wild said. “If there’s a call to action, it’s that people really need to become a steward to the local place that’s special to them.”
Correction: The original version of this story had misstated the owner of Au Coquelet. We apologize for the oversight.