Outdoor picnic tables in front of a lit-up restaurant. A glowing sign in the background reads Smokehouse
The Smokehouse. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

The Smokehouse, a Berkeley burger joint known for its affordable charbroiled burgers and other drive-in-style eats, will remain closed for at least another six months due to a fire that happened at the restaurant last week.

On Feb. 14, at around 5:30 p.m., a grease fire ignited in the kitchen at the restaurant located at 3115 Telegraph Ave. As Berkeleyside reported, firefighters were on the scene within minutes, putting out the blaze quickly. The fire was confined to the restaurant’s rooftop fan; quick work by BFD prevented flames from spreading further.

The burnt fan at The Smokehouse on Feb. 14. Photos: Emilie Raguso

Smokehouse general manager Shakaib Shaghasi told Berkeleyside on the night of the incident that he thought the business would open the following week, as soon as Tuesday, but that day came and went and the restaurant has remained closed.

In follow-up conversations with Nosh, Shaghasi said his previous expectations of a quick reopening were not to be. Due to damage resulting from the fire, the restaurant will need some construction work, of the roof and front kitchen, which will likely be a months-long process.

“At best, we will be reopening in six months’ time,” he said. “Our main concern is the permitting process with [the] City of Berkeley. Construction, at most, will not take longer than two months.”

In an email to Berkeleyside, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said, “While the owner has not yet submitted any plans, once they do, we’ll prioritize them for review and move them through the process at a faster pace. When there’s a natural disaster or a fire, our interest is in helping those property owners get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Shaghasi said the nearly 68-year-old family-owned business will “take advantage of the downtime,” remodeling the restaurant during its closure. The Smokehouse has not had major renovations since it was first opened in 1951 by Jean Kistner, nor when Shakaib’s mother, Saleha “Sally” Shaghasi, took over the business in 1999. The family sees this as the opportunity to make updates — like improving the layout of the kitchen and the ordering area — that they’ve always had hoped to do, but never found time to do.

If all goes as planned, The Smokehouse will reopen in fall 2019.

This story was updated on Feb. 25 with comments from the city.

Sarah Han was the editor of Nosh from 2017 to 2021. Previously, she worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In 2020, Sarah won SPJ NorCal's...