The original plan to reopen two restaurants destroyed in a five-alarm fire at Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue last November is on an indefinite hiatus.
The original plan proposed in February was to establish tent structures as temporary homes for popular Berkeley eateries Cafe Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar & Grill. As of Wednesday, the sign for the proposed project still hangs on the partial facade of what remains of the once-standing restaurants.
City spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said that although initial permit applications were submitted by property owner Greg Ent at the end of January, final and necessary changes requested for the application in mid-March have not yet been resubmitted by Ent for any type of structure, including the tents.
Ent has not returned any calls to the plan’s architect, Kirk Peterson of Kirk E. Peterson & Associates Architects, who does not currently know the status of project.
City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes the former grounds of the two restaurants, said the city made special efforts to help expedite the permit process for the building’s owners to commence with the creation of the tent structures.
“The location is prime business space,” Worthington said. “I was quite excited at the idea of the temporary structures being set up.”
Ent was expected to follow through with the changes to the application this past spring. However, the city has heard nothing from him about his next steps to rebuild the development.
Ent could not be reached for comment as of press time.
“The latest I’ve heard is a rumor that the (Ent’s) insurance company’s money couldn’t be used for the temporary structures,” Worthington said. “That may mean the owner of the building has switched gears from the temporary operation into looking at getting into a permanent building operation.”
Marc Weinstein, co-founder and co-owner of Amoeba Music, whose Berkeley location is a few doors down from the site of the fire, said in an email that the lack of development of the empty lot is having a detrimental effect on the businesses that remain on the surrounding blocks.
“Our corner continues to look like a bomb hit it — sales have never recovered from before the big fire,” Weinstein said. “That fire … was a blow to Telegraph Avenue that we’re not likely to recover from in the near future.”
On Nov. 18, the historic 39-unit apartment building that housed the restaurants was consumed by an accidental fire, which started in the building’s elevator room.
Business owners like Weinstein are upset the city is not taking more measures to prevent the lot at 2441 Haste from becoming like the derelict lot at 2501 Haste across the street, which also burned down in a fire 26 years ago.
“There is no law that says you have to build something when the building burns down, like the lot across the street, which has been vacant for 26 years,” Worthington said.
Regardless of the issues involved in the redevelopment of the lot, frequent diners of the former restaurants had been counting on their favorite restaurants once again being reopened.
“I love Cafe Intermezzo,” said UC Berkeley junior Anita Satish. “I was happy that they were even going to open in temporary structures — I had no idea that they may not reopen, and that makes me sad.”