Spats, bar in Downtown Berkeley, expected to reopen in April

Sierra Brown/Staff

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Spats, an antiquated bar located in Downtown Berkeley, is expected to have its soft opening in April, with the aim of continuing its traditions and retaining its historic style.

Before its closing in 2009, Spats stood at 1974 Shattuck Ave. for decades, but it will reopen with the assistance of local developers Nathan George and Mark Rhoades, as well as the San Francisco-based Tonic Nightlife Group. George said the bar’s reopening is meant to bring the bar into the 21st century and recreate it while keeping its older relics.

After the soft opening in April, Spats is scheduled to hold its grand opening in early May.

Polly Armstrong, the CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, described Spats as having a “living room atmosphere.” She said the bar resembles a mix of Berkeley bars Jupiter, Triple Rock and La Botella Republic.

“In a movie, it would be populated by college professors and people writing books,” Armstrong said.

Philip Taw, who previously owned Spats, received multiple offers from potential operators who wanted to transform Spats into a new sports bar, according to George. He said Taw hesitated to pass on the business to many prospects, wanting the bar’s history to be respected even as it underwent renovation.

Ultimately, Taw passed ownership of the bar to George, who renovates projects that have a long history and focuses on preserving landmarks of value to the city.

Besides reopening the bar, George said he and Ben Bleiman, co-owner of Tonic Nightlife Group, plan on implementing Tonic’s guest bartending program, where members of 501(c)(3) nonprofits can raise money working as bartenders at Spats and take all earned tips as donations. According to George, more than $250,000 has been raised through the program at different local bars owned by Tonic.

Additionally, George said he envisions the bar as a place where students in the Greek system can make use of the guest bartending program to fulfill their philanthropy requirements. George said Spats can also serve as a venue, with three private spaces available to book for parties and graduation events.

“I think that’s a real need that is missing in Berkeley — come graduation time or any time in the year when it is hard for students to make reservations, they can come to Spats,” George said.

According to Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner, Spats’ reopening will also serve as a source of rejuvenation for the surrounding business district. Armstrong said the bar’s reopening would not take business away from its neighbors but that it would be able to prosper along with the area.

“The whole place will experience an incredible change,” Caner said.

Contact Jennifer Kang at [email protected].