Caffe Med receives approval to sell beer and wine

Caffe Mediterraneum received preliminary approval from the city to sell beer and wine this week.

After receiving the go-ahead to operate 24 hours a day this summer, Caffe Mediterraneum now has preliminary approval from the city of Berkeley to sell beer and wine.

For Craig Becker, owner of the cafe and president of the Telegraph Business Improvement District Board, seeking the new beer and wine permit — approved Thursday — was naturally the next step in changing Caffe Mediterraneum’s image.

“We have a kitchen, but we have been known more as a coffeehouse than as a restaurant — we’re both,” Becker said. “We’d like to be open at night and be able to offer more of a dinner menu as well, and people expect to be able to order beer and wine at night.”

The preliminary approval will be open to appeals until Nov. 16. If there are no appeals, the city will approve the permit, allowing the restaurant to apply for a state permit from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

But even if both city and state approval were to come through, Caffe Mediterraneum would only be able to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. Becker said he plans to keep his kitchen open whenever alcohol would be sold, a promise he made when applying for the beer and wine permit from the city.

Caffe Mediterraneum’s plans to break into later hours come amid efforts from the Telegraph Business Improvement District’s to transform the Telegraph area into a 24-hour commercial district — something Councilmember Kriss Worthington said would be successful if many businesses choose to participate.

“I think it’s more effective if they have a critical mass or a group to do it together, but it’s legally possible for one or two businesses to do it by themselves,” Worthington said.

Becker, as well as Roland Peterson, executive director for the Improvement District, both cited what they see as significant hurdles that Telegraph business owners face from keeping later hours, such as paying staff and a lack of pedestrian lighting. Becker also mentioned the costs and time he had to spend to get his 24-hour permit, which he said cost around $2,000 and took months to be approved — something he said he would like to see go away.

“It’s hard to convince a business to spend thousands of dollars to pay for a permit and wait months,” Becker said.

Regardless of current difficulties, Peterson said he believes Telegraph businesses can thrive in the late hours.

“It’s entirely probable that one or two business will take advantage of that and succeed spectacularly and others follow suit,” Peterson said.

As part of its goals of making Telegraph a 24-hour zone, the district has agreed to a trial of extending hours until 3 a.m., which the city’s Planning Department has yet to send to the city’s planning commission for a vote.

In the meantime, Becker said he hopes for the best for Caffe Mediterraneum, seeing potential for his restaurant to help mold a vibrant, late-night atmosphere on Telegraph for the “modern 24/7 lifestyle.”