Progress underway at multi-use venue on Telegraph Avenue

Mikaela Raphael/Staff

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A multi-use venue will soon bring life to an abandoned corner of Telegraph Avenue that has lain unused for more than a decade.

Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media, located at 2454 Telegraph Ave., will be a bookstore, media center, restaurant, bar and music venue. Owner Ken Sarachan is also the owner of Rasputin Music, Blondie’s Pizza and a number of other local businesses in the Telegraph area.

Janne Brockman, a manager at Anastasia’s New and Vintage Clothing — which is also owned by Sarachan — said Mad Monk is unique in comparison to other bookstores in Berkeley because it reaches “smaller niche genres,” offering material that is “hard to find, with rare information.”

“(It) dances around the obscure,” Brockman said.

Brockman added that there is no definite opening date but that it will be within the next six months. She described Mad Monk as a place for people to enjoy different books and media while being able to sit down to a meal or grab food to go.

“Ken’s big on creating spaces for people to be productive and create their visions,” Brockman said.

Stuart Baker, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, said the venue would “only be a positive development” because the corner it is located on has struggled for years after the closing of Cody’s Books in 2006. He said Mad Monk would be an exciting addition along with two eateries also opening across the street at Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue.

“Based on the art we’ve seen on the outside and inside, I’m really excited about what artistic elements of the building are going to bring to the shopper experience,” Baker said.

Anthony Rizzuto, used books manager at Moe’s Books, which is located on the same block as Mad Monk, said bookstores are the “kinds of things that are the more the merrier for everyone.”

“I wish they’d hurry up,” Rizzuto said. “We need another place around here to eat and get a beer.”

Brockman described the venue’s restaurant as a hybrid of “prepared foods at Berkeley Bowl smashed into the convenience of 7-Eleven.” The bar, which will be located inside of the bookstore, is still in the works, according to Brockman.

“Personally, it wouldn’t bother me at all, especially if it meets the needs of the local community,” said John Northcutt, assistant manager at Caffe Mediterraneum, which is located across the street.

He added that the cafe would not be threatened by the opening of Mad Monk’s eatery and that the venue may even increase business with customer foot traffic in the area.

Because of the anticipated increased flow of traffic to the area, however, a memo was filed in 2013 to the city from Berkeley Police Department Chief Michael Meehan that raised concerns about security measures and noise pollution. The memo recommended that the ownership of Mad Monk participate in the local business association and foster a relationship with BPD.

The application submitted by Sarachan to the city also proposed an entertainment stage for poetry slams, jazz, folk, classic rock, R&B, comedy performances and book readings.

“There is a lot of literary magic happening inside,” Brockman said.

Contact Sareen Habeshian at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sareeenn