Elmwood restaurant the Advocate set to close after 15-month run

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The Advocate, a Mediterranean-influenced Californian restaurant in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood, will close Oct. 27 after just 15 months in operation, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Though it received positive reviews from local publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, the East Bay Express and the San Jose Mercury News in the months after it opened, the Advocate’s clientele has dwindled, according to Andrew Hoffman, the restaurant’s co-owner. Meanwhile, the Advocate cycled through three head chefs in its first year and received mixed reviews on social media.

“The amount of people coming into the restaurant kind of peaked, essentially, when we opened,” said Hoffman, who also co-owns Comal, a Mexican restaurant in Downtown Berkeley, with his partner John Paluska. “We went down from there over the last 14 months.”

Open seven days a week for dinner, the restaurant was also briefly open for weekend brunch. Like Comal, the Advocate does not take tips, instead adding 20 percent gratuity to clients’ bills automatically.

Joseph Humphrey, who was the restaurant’s second head chef and worked there for several months before moving to Limewood, a restaurant inside the Claremont Hotel, said the restaurant did not suffer from management or staffing problems.

Some customers, however, said they were dissatisfied with the Advocate, citing an inattentive wait staff and mediocre food for the restaurant’s prices — which range from $10 to $28 for dinner.

“We worked our asses off, quite bluntly, to make sure that every single person that came in left happy, but not everyone is always going to love everything,” Humphrey said.

Others, like Cynthia Brian, a frequent contributor to Yelp and TripAdvisor, credited the Advocate for serving high-quality food with good service.

Brian said she ate at the Advocate once and was unable to obtain a reservation for future visits because the restaurant was over-booked on weekends.

“I really thought it was going to be an incredibly popular restaurant,” Brian said. “I loved the menu, and I was looking forward to going back, but I guess that’s not going to happen now.”

The Advocate opened in early August 2015 after settling a suit by the Elmwood Neighborhood Association, or ENA, the previous year, which alleged that the restaurant’s opening would violate the California Environmental Quality Act and provisions of Berkeley’s Zoning Ordinance by reducing parking availability and increasing congestion in the neighborhood. Hoffman said the settlement did not ultimately impact the Advocate’s finances or its decision to close.

Jacquelyn McCormick, the president of the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Associationunaffiliated with the ENA speculated that the space for the Advocate would be replaced by another restaurant.

“Restaurants really need to be full for most of the night, for most of the week to make it work, and we just weren’t,” Hoffman said.

Contact Simon Greenhill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @simondgreenhill.