‘A cultural mecca’: Bacheesos’ Telegraph Avenue location closes

Nirvana Ellaboudy/Staff

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Three years in advance, Berkeley resident Cecile Pineda was planning her 90th birthday party at local Mediterranean restaurant Bacheesos, a place she considered to be a “cultural mecca.” Her party planning, however, was interrupted by the closure of the restaurant’s Telegraph Avenue location Monday.

In a few years, the spot where the local restaurant once stood will likely be filled with a five-story apartment building. Bacheesos, originally located on San Pablo Avenue, has another location in Oakland along with an accompanying coffee shop, which will remain in business.

“It was just a very ordinary space, but what (the Bacheesos management) did to it was absolutely fantastic,” Pineda said. “There’s no place like it.”

Bacheesos, which could not be reached at press time, is a family-owned Mediterranean café, known and loved online for its prices and buffet. Pineda added that she thought the restaurant was special because she could take all of her friends there, regardless of their food preferences.

According to Pineda, Bacheesos owner Soraya Kelar would feed the homeless and cater to different senior homes in the area.

“Everything in that space breathes generosity,” Pineda said. “A fantasy of mine is that this ambiance (captures) all of Berkeley.”

This closure comes after several other Berkeley establishments also closed their doors. Mexican restaurant Sol y Luna Taqueria closed in September 2018, Thai restaurant Jasmine Thai closed in April and Indonesian restaurant Jayakarta closed in August, all for financial reasons.

Campus senior Brian Ramirez has witnessed these local businesses closing, among others, since his freshman year. Ramirez said local shops have a hard time staying in business, since it is “expensive to function” in Berkeley.

While he said he is happy to hear of housing developments in the city, Ramirez said building apartment complexes, like the one proposed at 2650 Telegraph Ave., can sometimes disproportionately disadvantage low-income people and people of color.

“We just have to look at (development) overall in a more critical lens and be paying more specific attention to the equity aspect of what we are building,” Ramirez said. “The really important thing to know is if it’s actually going to be affordable and who that housing is going to cater to.”

The lot, which is owned by Los Angeles-based OSM Investment Company, has been contracted to Berkeley-based Trachtenberg Architects. The firm has designed a five-story building with 45 residential units, a small commercial space for a proposed café and an intentional exterior designed to limit impact on nearby neighborhoods.

Construction is proposed to start as early as summer 2020 with a completion date of about summer 2022, according to Trachtenberg Architects principal David Trachtenberg.

The project is set to be heard by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board or Design Review Committee for approval in January 2020, according to city of Berkeley associate planner Ashley James.

Contact Rachel Barber and Kate Finman at [email protected].

A previous version of this article may have implied that the construction project will be approved by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board or Design Review Committee in January 2020. In fact, the project will be previewed by ZAB or DRC in January 2020.