New Coffee Shop Hopes to Bring More Traffic to Sather Lane

Photo: Zanzibar Coffee House opened Saturday in Sather Lane.
Caroline McCloskey/Staff
Zanzibar Coffee House opened Saturday in Sather Lane.

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More than 10 months after Sufficient Grounds shut its doors at the southern end of Sather Lane, the gaping commercial hole it left is beginning to close with the opening of a cafe, which many business owners hope will increase foot traffic in the lane that connects Durant Avenue and Bancroft Way.

Zanzibar Coffee House opened Saturday under the co-ownership of Ahsan Sajjad and Farook Taraz and will attempt to appeal to student consumers by offering classic cafe fare, international snacks and flexible hours of operation.

Because of its proximity to UC Berkeley and the Unit 3 residence halls, a large percentage of Zanzibar's customers are expected to be students. Taraz said he hopes the coffee shop provides students with a clean and neat place to study with flexible business hours.

"We expect the student community to give their full support," Taraz said. "I know it's a business, but 90 percent of our customers are students. We are willing to work with them if they need longer hours (of operation). We have permission to open until midnight - if student traffic supports it, we'll open till midnight."

Business owners in the area expect an increase in the number of people walking through Sather Lane. Jatinder Malhotra, owner of Riya Beauty Parlor, said Zanzibar's opening will benefit all of the businesses in Sather Lane, not only because it fills an empty storefront in a very visible location but also because of the potential popularity of its product offerings with both students and community members.

Ryan Piscovich, manager of Yogurt Park, said he was excited that Zanzibar opened across from the family-owned yogurt shop. To him, yogurt and coffee seem to "go hand in hand." He added that he saw a noticeable drop in business when Sufficient Grounds closed.

Zanzibar will probably do what Sufficient Grounds did, "but with a little bit more flair," Piscovich said.

Although Zanzibar and Noah's Bagels at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Durant sell some similar menu items and are geared toward the same consumer base, the latter's focus is "strictly with the bagels," according to Taraz. He said the coffee shop also offers free Wi-Fi and a good seating capacity.

According to Taraz, within the next couple of days Zanzibar will begin serving sandwiches and fusion foods - such as Asian snacks and Indian samosas - to accommodate different student groups and communities.

"We're going to be a more interesting kind of cafe," Taraz said. "It will bring more traffic, I think, and it gives Sather Lane a good look."

Jessica Gillotte is the lead business reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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