Raleigh’s, Cafe Intermezzo may reopen after Haste Street fire

Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Cafe Intermezzo, the two popular eateries destroyed by the Haste Street fire in November, might reopen, according to an architect hired by the building’s owners.

This comes as welcome news for business owners operating in the fire-struck neighborhood who say the blaze has resulted in revenue losses as high as 50 percent. The fire, which broke out Nov. 18 and ravaged the five-story apartment building at 2441 Haste St., left little remaining of the two restaurants on the bottom floor.

So far, the prospect of reopening Raleigh’s and Cafe Intermezzo has been largely speculative and, according to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, before the city can issue any building permits, the site needs to be cleared of debris and designs must be submitted to the city.

“(Right now) it’s just a conversation,” Clunies-Ross said. “(We’re) discussing things they might want to do, before they apply and finalize any plans.”

Despite the absence of formal plans with the city or confirmation from building owners Gregory and Kenneth Ent, according to Kirk Peterson, an architect hired by the Ents, the owners have expressed a desire to reopen.

“They want to reopen the stores, but in what form?” Peterson said. “They want to serve the community again.”

The prospect of reopening could offer some relief to businesses owners who say the fire took a major toll on their December revenues.

According to Marc Weinstein, owner of Amoeba Music, one obvious way to bring traffic back into the area affected by the fire is to put business back in the spot previously occupied by Intermezzo and Raleigh’s as soon as possible.

“The city needs to put pressure on the property owners to get something built ASAP,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein said December revenue for Amoeba was down 40 percent from typical levels, which he attributed largely to traffic routing that made it more difficult for pedestrians to access his store.

“We’re the only building on our corner, and it’s been an absolute struggle,” Weinstein said. “To lose 40 percent, nothing is going to make that up for us, because (December) is our busiest month. That’s the Christmas season.”

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Al Geyer, chair of the Telegraph Merchants’ Association and owner of Annapurna — the second closest business to the debris site — said December revenue for his store was down 50 percent compared to last year, a decrease he attributed to negative publicity from the fire as well as the street closures.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he has heard complaints from business owners about the street closures and plans to make suggestions to the city council on how to help the Telegraph businesses at the council’s Jan. 31st meeting.

“The city has done a little bit in terms of publicizing once the street was reopened and sending out press releases and putting it on the website,” he said. “(They) haven’t done enough, the city needs to do much more.”

Weiru Fang covers Berkeley communities.