Berkeley’s highest bar opens for business

Study Hall, the 12th-floor bar at downtown Berkeley’s Residence Inn, opens Thursday afternoon with a menu of bar bites and booze with a view.

Study Hall, the sky-scraping bar atop Berkeley’s Residence Inn, photographed from the ground on March 7, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

This story has been updated with the current Study Hall opening details

Study Hall
2121 Center St. (inside the Residence Inn Berkeley), Berkeley

Berkeley’s new Residence Inn opened after years of delays late last year, and boasts features like walls adorned with locally themed art and 331 rooms for guests. But until now, it lacked what many consider the most important part of a hotel: a bar. That changes at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, when Study Hall, its rooftop watering hole and restaurant, finally opens for business. (The bar was originally expected to open on Tuesday, but issues with its POS system delayed the opening until March 10.)

An sign in the Residence Inn lobby promises the advent of Study Hall. Photo taken March 7, 2022. Credit: Eve Batey

Even as ideas for the hotel evolved over the decades (seriously, discussions started in 1997), a bar placed high above downtown Berkeley was always in the plans. Early on, developers said that the bar would be a private one, open only to guests of the Mariott-owned hotel, but that changed along the way. 

By last summer, the drinking and dining spot came into focus, with a name first reported by Eater SF. Placed on an outcropping at the 12th floor, the outdoor space looks out toward Oxford Street, with a view of the UC Berkeley campus and Observatory Hill. Inside, a moodily-lit dining room and bar welcomes anyone uninterested in gazing out over the school, including “locals, students, faculty and visitors,” the bar said in its first Instagram post.

With a high-flying perspective like that one, tucked into the city’s fourth-tallest building, the actual food and drinks are almost beside the point. But, still, there’s a solid lineup of dishes by way of executive chef Peter Houck, who is no stranger to feeding hotel guests — back in 2020, he took over as food and beverage director at Henry’s, the restaurant and bar at Graduate Berkeley, those boutique lodgings at the old Hotel Durant. 

Study Hall’s dining room awaits those who prefer to do their drinking inside. Credit: Residence Inn Berkeley

Houck is planning a menu of sharable bar bites like fried Brussels sprouts with a soy glaze and a fried calamari whimsically named CALamari (because, Cal, get it?).

There’s also a two-patty Wagyu cheeseburger and a pork belly bahn mi. There’s also a couple sweet options, including gelato or maple bourbon bread pudding, for anyone who wants to end their evening with dessert and a nightcap above the city.

The menu’s rotating list of cocktails are from general manager Jerry Scheible, and is heavy on familiar drinks with a spin.

At open, watch out for the Kombucherol Spritz, an Aperol spritz that trades Prosecco for kombucha from Boochcraft, a kombucha company based in San Diego.

If you prefer beer to ‘booch, there’s also 16 taps of beers from regional brewers (21st Amendment, Almanac, Drake’s, Fieldwork, Gilman and Novel are all on the roster). The wine list focuses on bottles from across California.

According to Residence Inn staffers, food and drinks will be available at Study Hall seven days a week, from 4:30-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, and 4:30 to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Residents have been looking forward to the bar since late last year, and a few emailed Nosh to let us know that staffers at the Residence Inn started to spread the word of the bar’s opening over the weekend. “I will be there, rain or shine,” one Nosh reader wrote. “Can’t wait to take in those views!”

Workers at the hotel are excited, too, like the employee Nosh spoke with on Monday to confirm the opening. “We’ve been waiting for this to open for so long, and people keep asking,” she said. “I’m just glad it’s finally here.”

Eve Batey (she/her) is the editor of East Bay Nosh. Email: eve@eastbaynosh.org. Twitter: eveb.