2 of Berkeley’s French restaurants come to a close

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Heather Feibleman/Staff

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After the recent closure of Le Petit Cochon Feb. 5, another one of Berkeley’s French restaurants — Bistro Liaison — is set to follow suit in the coming months, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Bistro Liaison will be replaced by Les Arceaux, another French-inspired establishment, while Brazil Cafe will move into the building where Le Petit Cochon was located. Bistro Liaison is tentatively set to close in late March, and Les Arceaux is expected to open around September.

“It’s time for change,” said Todd Kniess, owner of both Bistro Liaison and Le Petit Cochon. “We had a very good run here, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to be a restaurant owner here in the Bay Area.”

Kniess said two other nearby businesses featuring French cuisineCafe Rouge on 4th Street and another restaurant in Albanyhave recently closed or been sold. In the meantime, chain restaurants such as Sweetgreen, Paris Baguette and 85°C Bakery Cafe have been moving into Berkeley.

Kniess chose to open Bistro Liaison at 1849 Shattuck Ave. 16 years ago because Berkeley was well-known for its independent restaurants.

Over time, however, the cost of doing business in Berkeley has become increasingly unsustainable, Kniess said. The bistro has had difficulties paying its very large service staff while maintaining  prices at a rate that is a “good value for the customer, ” he added.

“It’s a tragedy — it’s the only restaurant of its kind in East (Bay),” said David Wilson, a South Berkeley resident who frequents Bistro Liaison.

Wilson said he finds that a lot of French restaurants can be snobby, but he believed this not to be the case with Bistro Liaison.

Rena Ramirez, publicist for Les Arceaux, said the new restaurant will be colorful and airy and its menu will feature organic vegetables and fresh produce. Wilson said he is willing to try out Les Arceaux when it arrives.

“Le Petit Cochon and Bistro Liaison are part of a whole industry trend,” said Arlene Giordano, owner of Le Bateau Ivre, a French restaurant on Telegraph Avenue. Rising rent and prices have been driving other East Bay restaurants out of business as well, according to Giordano.

Russell Bass, management associate of Le Bateau Ivre, said one of the reasons the restaurant has stayed in business is because they own the building in which it is located. He noted that he does not think the restaurant could stay in business if they had to pay rent.

Kniess said the city should start listening to restaurant owners before they lose more independent restaurants.

Berkeley is going to see many of their great restaurants close in the next five years,” Kniess said. “I hope that the City Council and mayor will finally open up their eyes and see what they’re doing to their community. … I doubt they will.”

Contact Jessíca Jiménez at [email protected].