Popular brunch spot Elmwood Cafe not expected to reopen

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Aren Saunders/Staff

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Elmwood Cafe, a popular breakfast and brunch restaurant, closed Friday about 2 a.m. and is not expected to relocate or reopen.

Hannah Rose, assistant manager and director of community programs at Elmwood Cafe, said in an email that she was unable to confirm the reason for Elmwood Cafe’s closure but said the cafe is “closed for good.”

People crowded around the doors of Elmwood Cafe on Monday, reading the sign from Elmwood Cafe that read: “Elmwood Cafe Has Closed. Our sincere gratitude to all the community. Thank you for your support through the years.”

There were about 60 sticky notes that community members posted to share their thoughts and memories.

“You contributed so much to the community and helped make this a community,” one sticky note read. “We will always appreciate you!”

Other sticky notes were more critical of the cafe’s closure.

“The need to apologize +/or make amends is not the same as closing your doors + giving up a great business!” another note read.

After a Philadelphia Starbucks incident that occurred April 12, CNN host and comedian W. Kamau Bell tweeted April 14 about having a similar experience at Elmwood Cafe.

An Elmwood Cafe employee allegedly kicked Bell out of the restaurant, incorrectly accusing him of harassing a group of white women — one of whom was Bell’s wife. Bell labeled this incident as “textbook racism.”

In a previous interview with The Daily Californian, Elmwood Cafe owner Michael Pearce said the employee’s misunderstanding is against the restaurant’s vision — that someone feeling unwelcome and uncomfortable is unacceptable.

The Starbucks incident, which involved two Black men being arrested after not ordering anything, reminded Bell of the situation he experienced.

“That’s why I spoke up again,” Bell said to Berkeleyside in an opinion editorial. “All of America’s racism is connected. Racism isn’t just a coffee shop problem. It is an America problem. And as much as many people don’t want to admit it, Berkeley is in America.”

The conflation of Bell’s alleged incident and Elmwood Cafe’s closure seemed odd to Cheyenne Overall, a UC Berkeley law student, who was reading the sticky notes outside the restaurant.

“I feel like you don’t close a profitable business,” Overall said.

Mike Dias, who said he was a security guard while Bell did stand-up at Punch Line San Francisco, stated that the incident Bell experienced in 2015 was “totally wrong.”

“I do remember years ago, it was a big uproar,” Dias said. “But it was surprising that it happened in Berkeley.”

Bell said in his opinion editorial that Elmwood Cafe had an opportunity to be a force for change in Berkeley and for the entire country but that Pearce stopped answering his emails in 2016.

Contact Alyssa Bernardino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.