Restaurants destroyed in fire to reopen in temporary tent structures

Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
A passerby reads a sign posted on the facade of the burned down building at the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue. The sign outlines the proposal for the restaurant to reopen and operate out of tents.

After being reduced to rubble in November’s Haste Street fire, Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Cafe Intermezzo are projected to reopen by May.

A building application submitted to the city of Berkeley in late January by architect Kirk Peterson calls for the construction of “temporary tent and shipping container structures” to run the eateries out of  “while arrangements and preparations are made for a new permanent replacement building.”

According to Peterson, three tents will go up in the space where the restaurants stood before the fire, serving as temporary structures for Raleigh’s and Intermezzo as well as a restaurant called Gabriella’s, which had not yet opened for business when the structure was destroyed by the fire.

“For the whole street it should be great, with three new businesses and an exotic tent-like atmosphere,” said Al Geyer, chair of the Telegraph Merchants’ Association and owner of Annapurna, a store located two doors from the debris site. “We all wanted to see something there immediately, and it was just a matter of whatever the city could do.”

The city is still reviewing the permit application, according to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

If the application is approved, each restaurant will have a self-contained kitchen in a storage structure resembling a trailer and will have at least one bathroom on the premise. While the details of the tents have not yet been fleshed out, Peterson said they would look like the large, white tents used for weddings and outdoor events and that all the structures will meet applicable health and safety codes.

The plans to reopen come as welcoming news for business owners operating in the fire-struck neighborhood who have said the blaze resulted in December revenue losses as high as 50 percent.

Geyer suggested the business owners reopen under the temporary structures while the construction of the permanent building is underway.  According to Peterson, it can take two years from the time a building permit is obtained to the start of the construction process whereas the temporary structures are projected to be finished before the end of the spring 2012 semester.

The project has also been met with enthusiasm from students who frequented Intermezzo and Raleigh’s before they burned down.

“At first blush I am extremely happy because I love Cafe Intermezzo,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Andrew Steinsapir, who said he went to the cafe at least once a week before the fire had occurred. “I’m a little worried about how they’re going to handle sanitation, but I guess that’s something the food and safety people will deal with.”

Steinsapir said he plans to frequent the restaurants when they reopen under the temporary tents.

“When I pass by, I get a little sad — and hungry,” he said.

Annie Sciacca covers city government.