Pub reopens with new name, new flavor

Photo: BEC's Bar & Bistro Entertainment's grand opening featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Downtown Berkeley location.
Jan Flatley-Feldman/Photo
BEC's Bar & Bistro Entertainment's grand opening featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Downtown Berkeley location.

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After a little over a month of peace and quiet at the former Beckett's Irish Pub & Restaurant in Downtown Berkeley, the restaurant nestled between Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen and the Used Computer Store reopened as BEC's Bar & Bistro Entertainment and was full of conversation, music and laughter Friday as community members celebrated the grand opening of the restaurant.

Owner Jean-Yves Duperret and Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, whose district includes the restaurant, joined in cutting the ribbon outside of BEC's, located at 2271 Shattuck Ave., April 15, three weeks after the bistro's soft opening. The transfer of ownership of Beckett's - which closed in February - began last May when owners Martin and Mary Connolly decided to sell the restaurant to Les Copains d'Arbord, but a delay in processing the license extended the ownership change transition.

While changes to the restaurant interior are subtle - books and pictures that had lined the walls are gone, and the glass that had divided the bar from the dining area has been removed - Duperret said the bistro's atmosphere is designed to promote an exchange of ideas between intellectuals, artists and poets and to encourage social connection.

"We wanted to offer a charming place that feels comfortable and that promotes a lot of interaction," he said, adding that the restaurant's cozy and energetic environment was inspired by his relationships with friends.

At one point during the celebration Friday, Duperret and Polly Armstrong, co-CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, shared a dance during a solo by the saxophonist from the Manny Cruz Latin Jazz Band.

Duperret described the BEC's experience as being "three-dimensional" with drinks, food and a warm atmosphere between people - a place similar to the cafes of the 1960s. Customers can share their poetry with an audience or view local artists' work.

"It is about the experience they have when they arrive, while they are here and how they feel when they leave," said Karina Laranjeira, communications liaison for BEC's. "No matter your age, we want people to come and feel at home."

On Friday, Berkeley resident Harvey Salem sampled the bistro's "California menu," which features portobello mushroom Taco Saga, shrimp and French champagne, among other dishes and drinks.

"The (Beckett's) owners served pub food. This is a little more high-end," Salem said, giving the BEC's food a "thumbs up." "This is my second time here since the new owners took over. The space is nice, and the people are friendly."

John Caner, executive director of Downtown Berkeley Association, who said he has been to the restaurant two or three times since it opened, said the bistro is a melding of culture, food and community and is a great meeting space at a midrange price point.

"It is taking it to the next level," Caner said.


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