New Chipotle confirmed to open in Downtown Berkeley in December

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Kevin Chan/Staff

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Berkeley’s third Chipotle location will open at 2225 Shattuck Ave. on Dec. 7, according to Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold.

After debuting in Berkeley about a decade ago, Chipotle made plans to open a location in Downtown Berkeley in 2016. Construction for the restaurant began in early 2017, replacing a vacant space where Alko, a 105-year-old supply store, closed roughly three years ago.

Matthew Jervis, director of vitality at the Downtown Berkeley Association, said the new Chipotle is “revitalizing” the building.

“We look forward to them offering something new and becoming involved as a local merchant,” Jervis said. “It will be interesting to see if they isolate themselves or if they engage with their community.”

Jervis added, however, that the Downtown Berkeley Association wants to encourage locally owned, independent merchants when possible. Although smaller Mexican restaurants in Downtown Berkeley see brand loyalty among their customers, the new Chipotle will send a “shock wave” through the area that will affect businesses, according to Jervis.

Jervis said he looks forward to seeing how the smaller restaurants differentiate themselves from Chipotle through price or menu changes.

Reza Ehtesabi, owner of Fresco Mexican Grill located down the street from where Chipotle is set to open, is confident that his business will not be negatively impacted by Chipotle’s opening. He said that when he went to Chipotle with his son, he noticed the store functioned “like a machine.”

“Here we have conversation with the customers,” Ehtesabi said. “We make everything fresh here every day. … Chipotle is like McDonald’s. We are homemade.”

Ehtesabi added that he has had customers assure him that he shouldn’t worry about the new Chipotle.

But Carlos Valdez, manager at nearby restaurant Cancún Sabor Mexicano, said he is worried the new Chipotle may harm Cancún’s business.

Cancún’s prices are higher than Chipotle’s because the restaurant sells food that is locally grown at the owner’s farm, Valdez explained. Although he believes the quality of Cancún’s food distinguishes the restaurant, Valdez said he recognizes that Berkeley is a college town. According to Valdez, Cancún is considering lowering some of its prices for students.

Kevin Chan/Staff

Several customers eating lunch at Cancún on Tuesday said they preferred the restaurant to Chipotle.

“It actually makes my stomach upset when I eat at Chipotle. It never fails,” said Steven Miyakawa, a San Francisco resident who works in Berkeley. “I’d rather eat here.”

El Cerrito resident Brooke Aird agreed with Miyakawa. He said he believes Chipotle’s recipes are not as well-executed as Cancún’s and that Cancún serves more authentic food.

“I don’t think very highly of Chipotle,” Aird said. “It’s … lower common denominator food (that is) not very well thought-out or prepared.”

Contact Hannah Piette at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Hannah_PietteDC.