Beloved by UC Berkeley students and community members for its late-night service and comforting ambience, People’s Coffee and Tea has closed, opening up space for two new food hot spots and leaving many former patrons at a loss.
Located near the intersection of Shattuck and University avenues, People’s Coffee and Tea and empty neighboring spaces on the ground floor of the WeWork building will be replaced by Blue Bottle Coffee and the popular New York City ramen shop Ippudo, according to David Smith, a partner of Soma Capital, the company that owns the building. The People’s Coffee and Tea lease had expired, Smith said, but he did not know why the cafe had closed.
People’s Coffee and Tea opened in 2006 with the goals of both providing quality food and drinks at affordable prices and creating a space where customers felt comforted, according to the cafe’s website.
Blue Bottle Coffee and Ippudo will open in four or five months after the WeWork building spaces are fit for occupancy, Smith said, adding that a new storefront will be incorporated to look like the other side of the building.
Aisha Cafimiro — an employee at BOBO Drinks, one of the two eateries still open on the block of Shattuck Avenue between University Avenue and Addison Street — said that People’s Coffee and Tea is supposed to move across the street from BOBO Drinks, although she did not know its move-in date.
The owners of People’s Coffee and Tea could not be reached for comment.
John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said he is glad to have the vacancies filled. Although he was not involved in deciding which businesses would move in, he said he believes that both Blue Bottle Coffee and Ippudo will be popular based on the reputations they have earned in their other locations.
Former customers of People’s Coffee and Tea were surprised and saddened by its closure. Campus junior Gaby Wantah, who had frequented People’s Coffee and Tea since her freshman year, said the vibe of People’s Coffee and Tea distinguished it from other nearby cafes and study areas.
“A lot of cafes around Berkeley are very cold … but when you walk into People’s, it’s usually lively,” Wantah said. “It gives off a very warm feeling.”
Berkeley community member and KALX-FM alumnus Christopher Stanley had a similar reaction to the cafe’s abrupt closure. He said he had been unaware of the closure but that as a night person, he was disappointed by the loss of a convenient, local cafe that stays open until midnight.
“It feels like your other living room,” Stanley said, adding that the cafe had a soulful quality that coffee chains such as Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee and Tea could not replicate.
Chris Nosworthy, an employee at Copy Central, located across the street from People’s Coffee and Tea, said there were always folks studying there. He lamented the loss of good sandwiches and managers.
“These tears are real,” Nosworthy said sportively.