Berkeley restaurant and cafe Au Coquelet closed its doors permanently Saturday after serving coffee, burgers, quiches and other casual eats for 44 years.
The restaurant was considered a favorite by many residents for its inviting atmosphere and cheap coffee, according to UC Berkeley School of Law student Sarang Shah. Shah added that Au Coquelet was a place to meet new people in an unfamiliar environment after he moved to Berkeley in 2013.
“It was a place where I could meet people and get a feel for the city and a really convenient spot to grab a cup of coffee,” Shah said. “I could spend the whole afternoon working on projects. I put together my entire Berkeley Law application there. I always appreciated their coffee and the really cheap refills.”
The closure of Au Coquelet, along with other notable Berkeley businesses such as University Press Books, marked a difficult year for the city, according to Shah. He added that businesses like Au Coquelet represented important opportunities for success to members of marginalized communities.
Au Coquelet was a late night staple for students who wanted to spend time with friends or work on assignments last minute while being served a plate of pancakes and coffee, according to Berkeley resident Darrell Owens. Owens added that the restaurant’s closure was disheartening but not completely unexpected.
“Only outdoor dining could’ve worked, and the use of sidewalks in the area wouldn’t have been sufficient,” Owens said. “Au Coquelet was doing takeout, but there’s not enough people and homes nearby to sustain that, so it was stuck, and I can see why the owners pulled the plug. It will surely be missed.”
In addition to providing late night snacks and coffee, Au Coquelet was the “unofficial civic center” for local politics, Owens said. Owens, who is a member of Berkeley’s Housing Advisory Commission, noted that the restaurant was a common meeting place for city commissioners, city workers, politicians and activists.
While Au Coquelet may not open its doors in Berkeley again, according to Au Coquelet’s website, its sister restaurant The Original Hick’ry Pit in the South Bay will continue to operate. Shah said that while it was open, Au Coquelet was one of the key community locations that served to bring all types of people, students and Berkeley residents alike, together.
“It’s been a hub for not just the political scene of Berkeley, but it was also this casual, informal cozy place that you could treat as a second home,” Shah said. “What I see here is an irreversible amount of damage to the small business community, especially those from marginalized communities.”