City Considers More Hours for Telegraph Shops

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Looking to offer Southside's student-centric population a livelier commercial zone and to increase business vitality on Telegraph Avenue, the city of Berkeley's Planning Commission will hold a public hearing for the proposed extension of Telegraph business hours after its advised changes to the proposal have been made.

At its meeting Wednesday, the commission reviewed the council referral - based on the Telegraph Business Improvement District's proposal to extend business operation hours to 3 a.m. as part of a plan to transform Telegraph into a 24-hour commercial zone - and asked the city's Planning & Development Department to draft a new report, which will restrict the proposal to establishments that do not sell alcoholic beverages and will be maintained between Bancroft and Dwight Ways.

"We really didn't make a decision, (but we) explored the question and (are) leaning toward a public hearing," said James Samuels, a member of the commission.

One main issue raised was the Berkeley Police Department's opposition to the proposal, which was the basis of the city staff's refusal to support the extension, Dave Fogarty, the city's economic development coordinator, said at the meeting.

Roland Peterson, the district's executive director, responded to the issue of police concerns by saying that similar arguments have been made by other police departments in regard to different cities' incorporation of a 24-hour commercial zone.

"(It's a) knee-jerk reaction of the police to oppose, but it's up to us to show them it works," said Craig Becker, owner of Caffe Mediterraneum and main proponent of the extension.

The commission also touched on the financial implications - in particular, the cost of overtime pay for police officers - of extending Telegraph businesses' hours.

At the meeting, Peterson added that Blake's on Telegraph, where most of the police concerns previously arose, is now closed and that there will be a "long discussion on what would take its place."

Though Peterson stressed that the proposal includes "soft closings" for bars, which would provide an extra hour for customers to stay and eat in such establishments and "trickle out in a gradual process," the commission does not wish to include establishments that sell alcohol, which may not serve food during the additional hours.

"If (bars) stay open past 2 a.m., (commissioners) want to make sure they make food available," Becker said.

Commission member David Stoloff said at the meeting that the 3 a.m. extension "may be palpable" if it is limited to establishments between Bancroft and Dwight that do not serve alcohol.

Although restrictions on liquor sold outside of bars and restaurants are not included in the district's original proposal, Becker said the district wants to restrict "off-sales" to 12 a.m., as opposed to the current limit of 2 a.m.

The commission also considered the possible redirection of late-night activity to the UC Berkeley campus due to planned retail expansion on Lower Sproul Plaza and student demands for extended hours.

Regardless of the restrictions suggested by the commission, several businesses maintain their support for creating an active business atmosphere on Telegraph.

Renee Araneda, owner of Tienda Ho - a clothing store on Telegraph - said at the meeting that though she would not extend her operation hours, the lights of businesses that would stay open later would make the avenue "feel safer, and that feeling will carry over to the day."


Karinina Cruz covers business. Contact her at [email protected]

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