Popular restaurants closed by fires face further delays

All that remains of the Sequoia Building is the one-story façade on Telegraph that housed Café Intermezzo and Raleigh’s. Photo: Lance Knobel

It looks like a number of Berkeley restaurants won’t be recovering as quickly as hoped from a recent set of fires.

The Daily Californian is reporting that the proposal to erect temporary tents to replace Café Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar & Grill, which were destroyed Nov. 18 when the Sequoia Building burned down, hasn’t gone forward. Property owner Greg Ent submitted a permit application in January, but has not responded to changes requested in mid-March by the city. Ent has also stopped talking to the project’s architect, Kirk Peterson, according to the Daily Cal.

“The latest I’ve heard is a rumor that the (Ent’s) insurance company’s money couldn’t be used for the temporary structures,” City councilmember Kriss Worthington told the paper. “That may mean the owner of the building has switched gears from the temporary operation into looking at getting into a permanent building operation.”

The intersection of Telegraph and Haste is one of the most blighted in Berkeley, as three corners are vacant or under-utilized. Just one wall of the Sequoia Apartments remains standing. The old Cody’s Books building, owned by Rasputin Records’ owner Ken Sarachan, has not been rented. Sarachan’s other lot at that intersection is also vacant. (The city of Berkeley has filed a lawsuit against Sarachan threatening to seize his lot to pay off $640,000 he owes in liens. In April, Sarachan unveiled a Moorish-looking design for a new building on the lot.)

Luke Tsai, who writes the What the Fork column for the East Bay Express, points out that Great China’s website reveals that the popular eatery won’t be reopening at its old spot on Kittredge, right next to the California Theater. Instead, Great China will be moving to the old Looney’s Barbecue spot at 2190 Bancroft Way. The place needs to be remodeled extensively, so the restaurant won’t open until the spring of 2013.

The restaurant shut down in January after a grease fire erupted in the kitchen.

Telegraph site owner plans for temporary resurrection [02.06.12]
Berkeley files lawsuit against owner of blighted lot [01.31.12]
Fire at Berkeley’s Great China Restaurant [01.25.12]

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Cityside. Email: frances@citysidejournalism.org.