‘Times change’: Brennan’s Restaurant in Berkeley closes after 60 years

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Amanda Ramirez/Staff

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Brennan’s Restaurant, a family-owned sports bar and restaurant located in West Berkeley, will close Sept. 15 after 60 years of business.

Margaret Wade, who co-owns Brennan’s with her brother and has worked there for more than 26 years, said the restaurant is closing because of a 25 percent rent increase on the building and a general dip in business.

“Times change,” Wade said. “It just kind of fell out of vogue. … A lot of people have that sort of bad, institutional food association with getting your tray and walking down a cafeteria line.”

Wade’s grandfather, John Brennan, founded the restaurant — which has been passed down through generations — in 1958. Wade said she loved visiting her grandparents at the restaurant when she was growing up and started working at Brennan’s when she was 17 for her first job after high school.

Many members of the current restaurant staff have worked at Brennan’s since the 90’s or for more than a decade, according to Wade, who said the staff is “like a family.” Over the years, Wade said several people have met their spouses at Brennan’s, with one customer even tattooing the Brennan’s logo on his body because his parents met there.

“It has literally been half my life that I’ve been doing this now, so it’s a very hard decision for me,” Wade said. “There are a lot of people coming in telling me really wonderful stories that are making me a little teary-eyed.”

Chase Clark, owner of The Black Squirrel located near Brennan’s, said the environment of Brennan’s is old-school, and the neighborhood has become more “upscale.”

“If a new restaurant goes in there, it will probably be a little fancier … less fried food,” Clark said. “The three martini lunch — that hasn’t been a thing since like the 50’s.”

Also commenting on the factors leading to Brennan’s closure, Ed Isaac, a Berkeley resident and customer at Brennan’s for several decades, said the dynamic and personality changed significantly after Brennan’s moved in 2008 from its original building to its current location, the historic railroad building at 700 University Ave.

Before it moved locations, Brennan’s was a larger “gathering place,” Isaac said, and was more personable when the family lived in an apartment above the restaurant.

“I’m gonna miss their Irish coffee the most,” Isaac said. “Where else in Berkeley or Oakland is there a buffet anymore? I can’t think of one.”

During events like the World Cup or the Super Bowl, Oakland resident Sanchez Sanchez, who has dined at Brennan’s frequently for the past seven years, said the restaurant gets “pretty popping.”

“Sure, I’m gonna miss the environment, the food, but what I’m gonna miss the most are the people,” Sanchez said.

Contact Mani Sandhu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ManiSandhu24.