As anyone who reads our monthly lists of restaurant openings and closures knows, the food business is a tough one. Rising commercial rents, along with the high cost of food and labor are often echoed as reasons businesses can’t make it. Another explanation we’re hearing more of: trouble retaining staff, often because dependable restaurant workers are finding it harder to afford the cost of living in the Bay Area. Other times, it’s a series of bad business decisions or landlord troubles that are the cause for misfortune. In the best case scenario, an owner has decided to close a restaurant to retire after many happy years.
This year seemed especially rough. Several longtime stalwarts, including Mexicali Rose, Hs Lordships, Salute e Vita, bade farewell to the East Bay for good. We weren’t always surprised to hear about the end for some of these oldies-but-goodies, but we were always sad when an institution or beloved local haunt was no longer.
But it wasn’t just older spots that closed; this year no restaurant seemed safe. There were so many places that bit the dust that we started to worry about our favorites, crossing our fingers and toes they wouldn’t be next to go. Several restaurants that took years to open shuttered just months after their grand openings and seemingly iron-clad successes abruptly closed their doors.
The following list features the restaurants and eateries that caused the most shock or controversy when they closed — not necessarily the ones we’re saddest about — because of the abruptness of their shuttering, the seeming success of their business or the situation that led to their demise.
Let this be a reminder to all of us to make it a point to support our favorite local eateries.
1. Maker’s Common in Berkeley, the first DPO-funded restaurant in California, closes after 7 months in business (and 3 years of planning)
Maker’s Common in Berkeley to close on March 4
2. 84-year-old Virginia Bakery closes so owners can retire
Virginia Bakery, a Berkeley institution, will close on April 28
3. Elmwood Café closes abruptly after headlines about 2015 Kamau Bell incident reemerge
Elmwood Café closed, as 2015 racism charge gets new life with Starbucks arrest
4. Landlord woes are the cause for closure of Ba-Bite on Piedmont Avenue
Oakland’s Ba-Bite to close due to landlord dispute
5. 60-year-old Brennan’s closes, marking it an end of an era for blue-collar dining in Berkeley
Hot plates, Irish coffees and memories: Last day at Brennan’s, one of Berkeley’s last blue-collar restaurants
6. Oakland’s favorite banh mi spot, Cam Huong, closes after 33 years so owner can retire
Oakland Chinatown’s Cam Huong Café will close today
7. Critically acclaimed Camino decides to close after 10 years; owners cite staffing as reason for calling it quits
After 10 years, Oakland’s Camino will close in December
8. Berkeley’s oldest restaurant, 128-year-old Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, closes
Berkeley’s oldest restaurant, Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, has permanently closed
9. It took 4 years to come to fruition, and only 8 months in business before Chow Oakland closed
Chow Oakland to close after only 8 months in business
10. No one saw this one coming: Uber popular Ici Ice Cream announces its closure via Instagram
Ici Ice Cream shop closes abruptly, bids Berkeley ‘au revoir’