Brewed Awakening to close after 35 years with Berkeley community

Photo of Brewed Awakening
Caroline Lobel/Staff
A combination of decreased business and increased rent during the pandemic has resulted in the closure of Brewed Awakening.

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The beloved Northside coffee shop Brewed Awakening, or Brewed, was voted best coffee by The Daily Californian’s Best of Berkeley just last year and is closing April 15 after 35 years in business.

Brewed — owned by Samir and Juju Nassar — was opened in 1987 and has been a staple in the Berkeley community, serving people from UC Berkeley, the Graduate Theological Union and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. However, decreased business since the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to reach a “fair and equitable” leasing agreement are the causes of its closure.

Soosh Nassar, manager and operator of Brewed, has worked in his parent’s family-owned establishment ever since he was tall enough to see over the counter.

“My parents put everything they had into the business and spent over half of their life building the Brewed Awakening Brand,” Soosh Nassar said in an email. “It was an aspect of my parents day to day life that is now over.”

After temporarily closing during the pandemic, Brewed reopened to 30% capacity. Since then, the store has been significantly less busy, as many campus and Berkeley Lab employees are still working remotely. Nassar estimated that the coffee shop is currently operating at 60% capacity, at best.

The establishment currently serves about 250 customers every day, compared to 800 before the pandemic. Nassar added rent in the area will likely continue to increase, making the current circumstances difficult to sustain.

“Brewed has catered thousands of events, and has served an unimaginable amount of customers their favorite beverages,” Nassar said in the email. “It would be a tough model to sustain.”

The Nassar family and Brewed staff both noted they will miss the community they have built over the past three decades.

After joining the team in 2019, shift leader and crew member Alejandra Fernandez noted how she will miss working at Brewed.

“I feel like I’ve been here longer, but it’s been a joy to start my shifts and work with my crew, see my regulars and people that passed by,” Fernandez said in an email. “I couldn’t have asked for a greater boss and it was also a pleasure to work alongside his family.”

Soosh Nassar described the community at Brewed with deep appreciation, remembering jokes he made with regular customers, as well as lifelong friendships he formed with past employees. He added that some customers even attended his wedding.

Samir and Juju Nassar plan to move forward and enjoy their retirement after the establishment is closed.

“We are grateful to our amazing and loyal staff who brought their own creative touch and presence to the café every day,” the Nassar family said in a statement. “It is time to celebrate the closing of an amazing chapter, and the opening of a new one.”

Contact Anoushka Jasuja at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @anoushkajasuja.