Raleigh’s, Cafe Intermezzo destroyed by fire

Fikre-selam Habebo/Staff
Raleigh's and Cafe Intermezzo, both Berkeley favorites, are closed as a result of the fire.

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On Telegraph Avenue between Haste Street and Channing Way, a row of traffic barricades and a sidewalk dusted with ash mark the site of two popular restaurants destroyed by a building fire that broke out this weekend.

Cafe Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar and Grill, the two eateries occupying the sidewalk storefronts of the fire-torn building, have been closed for the time being with no definite plans for reopening. Berkeley Fire Department officials have said that the building could collapse.

“As far as Raleigh’s and Cafe Intermezzo, I don’t know what they’re planning,” said Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District. “I know that public safety is the number one issue for the city — that trumps everything.”

The fire — Berkeley’s largest in 20 years — raged through the five-story, 39-unit apartment building from around 9 p.m. on Friday to 3:19 a.m. on Saturday and caused the roof to collapse, rendering it structurally unstable and forcing all tenants to evacuate.

Due to the possibility that the establishments will remain closed for a long period of time and could possibly never reopen, students, residents and alumni alike have been mourning the loss of the two long-standing businesses.

Several people have been responding to the news on their Twitter accounts with hashtags like #RIPRaleighs and #sadalum.

“Raleigh’s wiped out on Big Game day? So many memories, including some I can remember,” said Demian Bulwa, UC Berkeley alum and San Francisco Chronicle reporter, on his Twitter account.

CalSERVE Senator Andy Albright, who worked at Cafe Intermezzo, said many employees at the cafe were students, adding that the business supported more than 20 employees on its food line alone.

“I know there were folks who worked there literally six to seven days a week, some with 12 to 14 hour shifts,” he said. “They needed to provide for their family. There were people who had worked there for 30 years. It’s going to be very difficult for them.”

Neighboring businesses have also been affected by the fire due to a decrease in foot traffic on the avenue.

Al Geyer, chair of the Telegraph Merchants Association and owner of Annapurna, another nearby store, said the fire has caused a “business problem for everybody,” as several streets surrounding the building are blocked off to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe’s Books — located on Telegraph in between Haste Street and Dwight Way, just south of the apartment building — said several customers have come to her with concerns about the fate of the building and the welfare of residents and surrounding stores.

“No one was hurt, which seems like a miracle,” Moskowitz said. “It feels like a terrible blow to the neighborhood, though, to lose those businesses.”

According to Moskowitz, ongoing meetings between property owners, business owners and the city’s fire department will decide the fate of the businesses that were affected by the fire.

Geyer said the building will most likely have to be demolished before reopening the avenue entirely.

“It’s a real loss,” Geyer said. “Raleigh’s was probably the most popular pub, and of course Intermezzo was a mecca for its sandwiches. That’s going to be quite a loss.”