After five years in downtown Berkeley, Café Clem closed for good. Its last day serving its popular pastries and French-inspired sandwiches was Aug. 31. Owner Dorothée Mitrani-Bell, who also owns La Note, also downtown, has sold Café Clem to Patrice Fayet, a Frenchman, who will open a similar concept, called Maison Bleue, in the space this fall.
Mitrani-Bell told Nosh that she is “making some personal changes in her career” and although she “loved putting [Café Clem] together and loved working on it, La Note is already a lot to handle on its own.”
In a Facebook post, Mitrani-Bell wrote: “After close to five years of servicing the neighborhood and with a tremendous amount of joy and gratefulness, we are happy to announce that Café Clem will be changing hands to a wonderful new French team as well and will become “Maison Bleue” after a few weeks of remodeling. Uncanny coincidence that the building is now being repainted blue, as to welcome the new café! Thank you Berkeley and locals for your patronage! We will miss you! You can still come visit us at La Note restaurant.”
In addition to continuing the operation of La Note, Mitrani-Bell will be going into private consulting to help set up cafés in the style of Café Clem. She will also likely be bringing some of Café Clem’s popular pastries, grilled-cheese sandwiches and occasional specials to the menu at La Note.
The sale, first reported by the Daily Cal, marked the end of a challenging year for Café Clem, which closed temporarily in December 2015 in order for Mitrani-Bell to rethink the concept. As Nosh reported in January, the café had been under serious financial pressure due to rising labor and wholesale costs. The rise in Berkeley’s minimum wage, coupled with increased wholesale costs, meant the café’s margins were not large enough, said Mitrani-Bell in January.
Instead of closing down last winter, Mitrani-Bell reduced the café’s operating hours and eliminated more costly ingredients, like roast beef, salami and prosciutto, from the menu.
However, over time, Mitrani-Bell decided it would be best to sell the café. She told Nosh that she initially wanted to sell the business to someone who would continue to operate the space as Café Clem. Instead, she found a new owner who already had the Maison Bleue concept in mind.
Luckily for Café Clem fans, Fayet plans for Maison Bleue to have a similar vibe to the original café, with a few tweaks. He does plan to add more entrées to the menu, as well as crêpes, sandwiches and a weekend brunch. Fayet has applied to transfer Café Clem’s beer and wine license to the new restaurant, and he plans to eventually offer a happy hour. Nosh has reached out to Maison Bleue’s owner and will update this story as we learn more.
Mitrani-Bell is very happy with the plans. “Now I just get to sit back and appreciate it,” she said.
The restaurant space is already under renovation, and Fayet plans to open in November.
Maison Bleue will be at 2020 Kittredge St. (between Milvia Street and Shattuck Ave.), Berkeley.
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