UPDATE, JAN. 2: All the Starbucks staff working at the now shuttered Telegraph Avenue store have been transferred to one of the coffee chain’s other nearby locations, according to a Starbucks spokesperson who responded today to Berkeleyside’s Dec. 21 request for information. Asked why the store closed, the spokesperson said: “As part of Starbucks standard course of business, we continually review and evaluate our locations to ensure a healthy store portfolio.”
ORIGINAL STORY: The Starbucks at 3001 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley will close on Dec. 30, four and a half years after it opened in spite of vocal community opposition.
The manager at the coffee shop, which is on the street level of the Telegraph Gardens building on the southeast corner of Telegraph and Ashby, confirmed that the coffee shop would shutter. He referred any further questions to the coffee giant’s media relations department. (Starbucks had not responded to Berkeleyside’s inquiries by press time.) A sign posted on the shop’s door announced the decision to customers.
The news in early 2013 that the Seattle-based coffee chain was planning to open in South Berkeley was met with dismay by some in the community, including the local Bateman Neighborhood Association, and fans of independent coffee shop Mokka that then operated two blocks south of the proposed Starbucks location, at 3075 Telegraph. A “Save Mokka” campaign was swiftly launched to support the family-owned business against the perceived threat of Starbucks.
The Bateman group collected 1,500 petition signatures and presented them in March 2013, along with an appeal that focused on traffic and parking impacts, to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board. (When approving the original application, the city waived parking requirements at 3001 Telegraph on the basis that customers would be local and would walk to a coffee shop.)
It seemed the community — in a city known to speak up in favor of independent businesses over corporations — had won its battle when the City Council voted the next year to deny Starbucks an administrative use permit.
However Starbucks eventually emerged victorious when it circumvented the city’s requirements — principally the need to offer a number of parking spaces relative to the size of the store — by electing to open in a space significantly smaller than the one it had originally envisaged.
Two years later, in 2016, Mokka closed, its owners, Michael and Susan Iida, saying that the principal reason was the impact on their business of the city’s rising minimum wage. Hashtag Poki opened in that space shortly afterwards.
Andrew Lazarus, who works a block away from the Starbucks, said he probably went there about twice a week, once for a sandwich at lunchtime, once for tea and a pastry.
“I’ll miss it, as I also liked that they would let you read the paper without buying,” he said. “It’s not life-altering though. It is, however, the wrong time of the year for employees to get laid off.”
None of the city’s other Starbucks are slated for closure. Other than the South Berkeley shop, Starbucks has five other stores in Berkeley: two on Shattuck (one inside a Safeway), one on Oxford Street, opposite UC Berkeley, one in the Target on University and one on Solano Avenue.