Tupper & Reed opens tonight in Downtown Berkeley. Photo: Brian Sheehy
Tupper & Reed opens tonight in Downtown Berkeley. Photo: Brian Sheehy

The East Bay is becoming quite the drinking destination. With West Berkeley’s booming craft beer scene and Uptown Oakland’s growing nightlife scene, it feels like we are quickly catching up with San Francisco. More proof if it were needed: downtown Berkeley is now home to Tupper & Reed, the latest project from SF’s Future Bars team.

The long-awaited bar opens its doors tonight at 6 p.m. at 2271 Shattuck Ave. (at Bancroft). Tupper & Reed is modeled on the Future Bars‘ SF flagship, Bourbon & Branch, a speakeasy-style bar. It will boast a menu of 70 cocktails and hundreds of spirits, said co-owner Brian Sheehy, featuring classic drinks, twists on those classics and a number of cocktails created exclusively for the bar. In addition, Sheehy said, it will serve a small selection of beer and wine for “people who insist on not drinking cocktails.”

The original Tupper and Reed music store was Berkeley's home for records, music instruments, and gramophones for almost 100 years. Image courtesy: Brian Sheehy
The original Tupper and Reed music store was Berkeley’s home for records, musical instruments, and gramophones for almost 100 years. Image: courtesy Brian Sheehy
The original Tupper and Reed music store was Berkeley’s home for records, musical instruments, and gramophones for almost 100 years. Image: courtesy Brian Sheehy

One thing will be at least slightly different than Bourbon & Branch — the prices. “A lot of our neighbors have asked about the price of the cocktails,” said Sheehy. “The price of a cocktail in San Francisco is pretty insane,” and they’re worried that Tupper & Reed will carry on that tradition, he said. Because of this concern, the menu will offer cocktails over a range of price points, from $6 to $11, with the average drink costing $9.

Like other Future Bars projects, Tupper & Reed’s thematic design and name takes inspiration from its location, the historic Tupper and Reed music store. Opened in 1906 by John Tupper and Lawrence Reed, the store was the place to purchase sheet music, instruments, records and even gramophones. According to the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project, “This building features clinker bricks, wood beam ceilings, slate roofs, balconies, fanciful decorations, and a monumental fireplace. The iron cutout on the chimney top announced the Sign of the Piper Restaurant, once located upstairs.” In 1959, a fire caused the owners to relocate next door. The music store closed in 2005, one year short of its 100-year anniversary.

To celebrate the historic building, Sheehy and co-owner Doug Dalton built the layout of the cocktail menu around a program from an opera performance, and have created a special room upstairs for turn-of-the-(20th)-century music aficionados. The room, named the Polly Armstrong Listening Room, will boast a collection of records spanning the 1890s to the 1930s, and a working gramophone. “You’ll be able to bring your friends, browse records, and really appreciate the music and the gramophone,” said Sheehy. Guests can reserve the room for parties of up to eight people.

The listening room is named for the current Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO, who, Sheehy says, was “instrumental” in getting the bar off the ground. Sherry added, “She actually remembers going to Tupper and Reed when she was younger to listen to records,” so the honor is fitting.

Tupper & Reed will be divided into two separate bars, in addition to the listening room. The downstairs bar, named The Stage, will be a typical bar area, with no reservations available and a shorter cocktail list. Upstairs will be The Balcony, a reservations-only bar with full table service and the entire 70+ cocktail list. Reservations will be available for groups ranging from two to eight people; a larger event space will also be available for groups of up to 30.

The Stage Bar at Tupper & Reed. Photo: Brian Sheehy
The Stage Bar at Tupper & Reed will be open to walk-ins. Photo: Brian Sheehy

While Tupper & Reed will not offer food service, Sheehy says that he hopes guests will enjoy the food from the surrounding restaurants. “We’re located right next to Angeline’s, which has got to be the busiest restaurant in Berkeley. We think we’ll be a kind of waiting room for Angeline’s, so you can show up there, put your name on the list, and come to us for a cocktail or two while you wait.”

Sheehy has brought in two Bourbon & Branch alums to head up operations at Tupper & Reed: Sevan Araneda, a five-year Future Bars veteran, and Justin d’Olier. “The managers have assembled a very well-respected crew of cocktail people for our staff,” said Sheehy.

For the first month, Sheehy plans to remain in a “soft-opening” mode in order to properly train the staff. While he and Dalton have acquired an entertainment license for the space, they won’t make use of it until they’ve ironed out all service kinks. “Once we get through the soft-opening phase,” he said, “We will start having jazz music, probably a three-piece band playing certain nights.”

Tupper & Reed is the second East Bay project for Future Bars. They opened a branch of their bottle shop, Cask, on College Avenue in Rockridge last fall.

Tupper & Reed is at 2271 Shattuck Ave. (near Kittredge Street), Berkeley. Connect with the bar on Facebook and Twitter. Tupper & Reed is open at 6 p.m. tonight. Starting Friday, the bar will be open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Closed Sundays.

Thalassa space becoming music venue, beer garden (02.24.15)
New club aims to spice up downtown Berkeley nightlife (11.12.14)

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Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...