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Longtime Berkeley restaurant hopeful about reopening after losing lease

Longtime Berkeley restaurant loses lease, remains hopeful about reopening
Longtime Berkeley restaurant loses lease, remains hopeful about reopening 02:18

BERKELEY – Staff and longtime customers have been saying their final farewells to Cesar on Shattuck, but the owners have some news that could change the future for the beloved restaurant.

July 23rd is the last time Cesar will open its doors to customers at this location. After more than 24 years serving the community, it's not ready to say goodbye just yet.

Every night, you can hear the rumble of chatter as dishes and cocktails are served.

It's not just another restaurant on Shattuck but a place where regulars and foodies have been coming for years, in some cases decades.

"I've been coming here ever since they opened. I remember watching them construct the place. Walking by the place and wondering when will they open," said Sylvia Kimura.

Customers, including Kimura, shared with KPIX 5 the same sentiment about losing this community gem.

Inside Cesar restaurant on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. CBS

Kimura said, "It's a sad loss. There have been so many losses the last few years and this is just another replace that has to go. It's kind of sad."

Cesar lost its lease after its landlord and neighbor Chez Panisse decided not to renew, reportedly to build its own bar in the space.

James Mellgren, a manager at Cesar says, "She just doesn't understand how much the people that have come to Cesar love Cesar."

Cesar and its original 3 founders have had a longstanding relationship with Chez Panisse's owner and chef Alice Waters. One of the founders passed away and the other two now only have a small part in the business.

Mellgren explains, "I think in Alice's mind, the 3 original founders are gone so why should Cesar still be here. And our argument is we are Cesar."

While Cesar may be closing this location, the restaurant announced Wednesday that it is close to inking a lease at new spot nearby.

The goal is to reopen as quickly as it can so as July 23rd approaches, Cesar is telling its customers see you soon again.

Mellgren said, "I think if we were just closing and going away, I think they would be devastated. I think they would be leaping out of windows. We're assuring them that we will survive and we will be in a new location has given them great hope."

KPIX 5 reached out to Chez Panisse Wednesday night for comment but have not heard back.

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