Lower Sproul Plaza will reopen in the fall with four new restaurants, two coffee shops and a bar. Photo: Ted Friedman
The newly rebuilt Lower Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus will reopen in the fall with four new restaurants, two coffee shops and a bar. Photo: Ted Friedman

By Francesca Paris

Cal’s Lower Sproul Plaza is scheduled to re-open in the fall after two years of construction with a new selection of food, coffee and drink purveyors, all of which will be open to the public. The choice will include a burger joint, a salad and sandwich spot, a pizza place and a Mexican restaurant.

The Lower Sproul Plaza Redevelopment program, construction for which began in early 2013, replaces the old, seismically unsound Eshleman Hall with a 50% larger (though shorter) building. It will house the MLK Jr. Student Union which has been upgraded with the addition of a new space on the sides facing Lower Sproul and Bancroft Way, among other renovations.

The new food options will include four restaurants on the plaza level, two coffee shops and a Bear’s Lair Bar and Kitchen at the west end of Eshleman. The dining commons in MLK will have a small stage for student performances and DJs.

Photo: Equator Coffee
Equator Coffees will have two locations in the new Lower Sproul Plaza. Photo: Equator Coffees

The Bear’s Lair Bar will provide a full menu of traditional bar foods featuring local specialties and organic ingredients, and a bar with beer, wine and liquor. It will operate from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Equator coffee will serve coffee in two locations, on the second floor of MLK and the lobby level of Eshleman. Equator is a sustainability centered, women-owned business based out of Marin that farms its own coffee at Finca Sophia, 45 acres of land in Panama. It uses a Loring SmartRoaster to reduce carbon emissions by 80% in the roasting process. According to a press release from the ASUC Student Union, Equator houses its workers in environmentally friendly buildings and “invests in their well-being seriously.”

Root 150 will serve soups, sandwiches, salads and homemade pastries, with a range of vegetarian and vegan options, with ingredients harvested within 150 miles of the university.

True Blue Grill will offer burgers and other fried offerings, with breakfast in the mornings and a late-night grill during “peak study season.” Asado Latin Grill will prepare burritos and tacos, and House of Pi will serve pizza.

Chartwells will provide catering for all of the venues.

“Students are always looking for more food options and services,” said ASUC Student Union Commercial Space Coordinator Donna-Jo Pepito. “I think re-opening Lower Sproul will give the whole community more options to choose from.”

As Lower Sproul gives directly onto Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue, some of its new restaurants and coffee bars could represent competition for eateries in the immediate area. Telegraph merchants are aware that aspects of the thoroughfare, including its population of transient youth and homeless people, make it unappealing to some locals. Efforts have been under discussion to enhance its offerings and attract more customers for several years.

When plans for the new Lower Sproul were unveiled in 2012, some city council members expressed concern about its impact on Telegraph, speculating whether the new facilities would prove a greater lure to students than the avenue.

The revamped Lower Sproul will also include a new Cal Student Store, work and meeting spaces for student organizations, a multi-purpose space for practices, performances and events, a multicultural community center and a “campus living room” that will function as an informal student gathering space, among other services.

Francesca Paris, a summer 2015 reporting intern at Berkeleyside, is a sophomore at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. 

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