Michael Parayno. Photo: Eric Arnold.

On December 10, we published a story by Sarah Henry on Multi Culti Grill Birdland Jazz, an informal BBQ supper club run by Michael Parayno, who is also known for his artisan birdhouses. The city is threatening to close down the Grill for code violations. Many readers left comments on the article expressing their support for the initiative which, they said, has brought a great sense of community to this north Berkeley neighborhood. Mike himself sent in this note:

Thank you, Sarah, for capturing the essence of Birdland and the community of Birdlanders.

Just like the birdhouses, the jazz/BBQ events started out as an accident. May 28th, Memorial Day, was when it all started this year. I wanted to BBQ for friends, and I hadn’t bbq’d for a while and I didn’t have a grill. So I bought a grill and smoker after doing a little research.

I don’t really have a backyard since it’s full of birdhouses, so the only place for the grill was my driveway in front of the building by the North Berkeley BART. My friends and I just pulled a few chairs out front for our first BBQ and I think a futon.

Community people passing by and BART commuters were curious about our BBQ, and we just invited them. That was the start. Since it was World Cup season anyway, and since I was not teaching in the summer except one class, we decided to have another BBQ and more neighbors joined. Craigslist gave us more futons.

August was supposed to be the end of the community BBQs, but no-one wanted to stop the gatherings, especially after one neighbor played with his jazz trio in the garage which was full of birdhouses and a station wagon. And the rest is history.

This has been a community undertaking since the very beginning. All I had was a BBQ grill, and a garage with leather couches. Now it’s a supper club. Wow, we should all put a leather couch in our garage and a grill in our front driveway and open more supper clubs to our neighborhood.

What I’ve enjoyed the most from this undertaking are the Berkeley High School Jazz kids that play here with so much enthusiasm and their supportive parents. They are very addicting to be around. What energy. So come to our final gala event this Friday to see how special our community energy is in this area.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...