People’s Coffee and Tea on Shattuck Avenue closes

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Chris Cox/Staff

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Beloved by UC Berkeley students and community members for its late-night service and comforting ambience, People’s Coffee and Tea has closed, opening up space for two new food hot spots and leaving many former patrons at a loss.

Located near the intersection of Shattuck and University avenues, People’s Coffee and Tea and empty neighboring spaces on the ground floor of the WeWork building will be replaced by Blue Bottle Coffee and the popular New York City ramen shop Ippudo, according to David Smith, a partner of Soma Capital, the company that owns the building. The People’s Coffee and Tea lease had expired, Smith said, but he did not know why the cafe had closed.

People’s Coffee and Tea opened in 2006 with the goals of both providing quality food and drinks at affordable prices and creating a space where customers felt comforted, according to the cafe’s website.

Blue Bottle Coffee and Ippudo will open in four or five months after the WeWork building spaces are fit for occupancy, Smith said, adding that a new storefront will be incorporated to look like the other side of the building.

Aisha Cafimiro — an employee at BOBO Drinks, one of the two eateries still open on the block of Shattuck Avenue between University Avenue and Addison Street — said that People’s Coffee and Tea is supposed to move across the street from BOBO Drinks, although she did not know its move-in date.

The owners of People’s Coffee and Tea could not be reached for comment.

John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said he is glad to have the vacancies filled. Although he was not involved in deciding which businesses would move in, he said he believes that both Blue Bottle Coffee and Ippudo will be popular based on the reputations they have earned in their other locations.

Former customers of People’s Coffee and Tea were surprised and saddened by its closure. Campus junior Gaby Wantah, who had frequented People’s Coffee and Tea since her freshman year, said the vibe of People’s Coffee and Tea distinguished it from other nearby cafes and study areas.

“A lot of cafes around Berkeley are very cold … but when you walk into People’s, it’s usually lively,” Wantah said. “It gives off a very warm feeling.”

Berkeley community member and KALX-FM alumnus Christopher Stanley had a similar reaction to the cafe’s abrupt closure. He said he had been unaware of the closure but that as a night person, he was disappointed by the loss of a convenient, local cafe that stays open until midnight.

“It feels like your other living room,” Stanley said, adding that the cafe had a soulful quality that coffee chains such as Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee and Tea could not replicate.

Chris Nosworthy, an employee at Copy Central, located across the street from People’s Coffee and Tea, said there were always folks studying there. He lamented the loss of good sandwiches and managers.

“These tears are real,” Nosworthy said sportively.

Contact Hannah Lewis at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hlewis_dc

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  • relentlesscactus

    I talked to the dark quiet cool dude who is always there and asked him why the benches were gone. He said they were moving across the street. He pointed across the street, and there really is only one place that could be. He said it was a bigger and better location and he seemed happy about it. What is weird is the website says nothing and there are no signs at either the old or new locations. I sure hope it’s a sure thing and they re-open soon! One of the best businesses in all of Berkeley.

  • Michael Douglas

    I have known the owner from People’s for many years. What i will add is that he was having many issues with the property itself. He was fixing that bathroom once a month. What a hassle. However, good for him, he will be at a new location soon. Lets keep our hopes up!!!!!!

  • ippudo will be well welcome here. we need more gentrification

    • xxpinkprincessnekoxx

      Even though it didn’t seem like it, People’s Cafe was also gentrification. They only moved here a decade ago.

      • relentlesscactus

        Oh, pu-LEEEEEEEZ!

        • xxpinkprincessnekoxx

          I’ve met people who didn’t realize that People’s Cafe was another image-conscious, hip coffee shop. They’re not from this area. Nothing wrong with the shop or the food itself, but it’s not “authentic” like some other Berkeley coffeeshops which have been here forever (even if they have colder atmospheres).

          • relentlesscactus

            That’s just a judgement call. People’s ain’t Starbucks.

  • practiCalfMRI

    I was in there a few times last week, didn’t see the owner (who usually works early) but did talk to the women working and while they weren’t sure exactly of the reopen date they thought “two to three weeks.” I saw another customer, one of the fixtures, moving tables across the road to the new location, too. So, people, fingers crossed we’ll have our cafe back soon! See ya there!