Acting on a call from the public, the Berkeley police shut down a celebration at the Cheese Board on Saturday. Photo: D.H. Parks

The Cheese Board Collective marked Gourmet Ghetto neighbor Chez Panisse’s 40th birthday by serving free slices of its legendary pizza to customers on Saturday night. The celebrations were curtailed at around 10:30pm, however, after the police, acting on a call from the public, asked that crowds disperse and the party be wound down.

According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt Mary Kusmiss, at around 10:00 p.m. a community member called to report a noise complaint consisting of a “loud live band” in the area of the 1500 block of Shattuck Avenue.

A patrol officer arrived at the Cheese Board at about 10:10 p.m., and determined that the “hundreds of people in the street” created traffic and community safety issues as they were blocking the roadway and walking in, and across, the street. Berkeley Municipal Code states that quiet hours begin at 10:00 p.m.

In addition to the noise and pedestrian violation and overall safety issues, the officers documented that many members of the celebration were drinking alcohol which is also a code violation, Sgt Kusmiss said. “In the interest of mitigating the other issues, the BPD supervisor and BPD officers chose not to engage in any alcohol enforcement,” she said.

While many people were cooperative, the close-down did not sit well with everyone. One disgruntled participant was Berkeleyside reader Frank, who wrote in our Comments section: “Free delicious pizza and excellent jazz to any and all who came to join the celebration! The spirit of the gathering was beautiful; people were gently dancing and smiling on each other with a sense of community pervasive in the evening air. This was as wholesome as it gets… the Berkeley police gradually squelched and finally shut down this peaceful, life-affirming gathering.”

Daniel Parks, who took the photo above, said he told a police officer there was free pizza at the Cheese Board if he wanted a snack, but his suggestion was not taken up. “He gave me sort of a sour look and said no thanks,” he wrote.

The police have asked the Cheese Board to alert them if they are planning such an event so they can offer their support, and that  in future the restaurant request the necessary special event permits.

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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...