Berkeley’s 46-year-old Au Coquelet cafe is destroyed
Berkeley mainstay Au Coquelet cafe closed permanently nearly two years ago, but its high-profile sign on the corner of University Avenue and Milvia Street remained until Wednesday. That’s when a demolition crew tore down his building, which was part of a plan to build an eight-story residential building with 81 housing units.
Au Coquelet (its name means “spring chicken”) was the kind of unpretentious, accessible cafe once ubiquitous in all American college towns, a place with an acceptable burger and a cup of coffee that did the trick, usually with late hours and tables filled with a mix of students and university-adjacent locals.
Finding an economic model to sustain Au Coquelet has become increasingly difficult since the low-key late-night cafe opened in 1976, a challenge made worse by the pandemic. At the time of its October 2020 closure, the restaurant was under the management of Cal Dining, which gave workers two days’ notice that it would close permanently.
“I could spend all afternoon working on projects,” said UC Berkeley Law School student Sarang Shah. said of Au Coquelet in 2020. “I put together my entire application for Berkeley law there. I have always enjoyed their coffee and the really cheap refills.
Its closure might have been inevitable, pandemic or not, however, as plans were underway to demolish its building and the next to make way for an ambitious new mixed-use building from the developers behind a number of other Berkeley projects from high level.
Au Coquelet ended its 46-year run on October 16, 2020 and October 21 Berkeley’s Read investments had filed a preliminary application to redevelop 6,258 square feet at 2000 University Avenue and 2001 Milvia Street.
The plan, which has changed very little since, probably sounds familiar to those who follow local residential development: Designed by Trachtenberg Architects, two buildings will be razed to construct an eight-story building that will contain 81 studios, seven of which will be affordable for people earning 80% of the region’s median income.
On the ground floor, there will be 1,400 square feet of commercial space. No parking will be available on site, but there will be storage for 54 bicycles.
People longing for a cafe in this block could still get their wish, as Read has expressed interest in tenants including a cafe for this ground floor retail space. If one is to open it won’t have the comfortable guts of Au Coquelet, of course, but even Au Coquelet was new once, so let’s meet here 46 years from now and see what we think of this new cafe at the time.
Nico Savidge provided additional details to this report