BERKELEY -- Despite regulations limiting the number of quick service restaurants, the city will allow entrepreneur Ken Sarachan to open such an establishment at 2360 Telegraph Ave.
Quick service restaurants provide seating, but not table service. Customers order food at a counter.
The ruling calls into question the area's quotas on restaurants, which were implemented more than two decades ago to increase the diversity of businesses in the area.
Sarachan's permit application came to the council because the Telegraph Avenue Restaurant Association appealed a zoning board ruling permitting the proposed business, which exceeds the area's 30 quick-service-restaurant quota. (There are already numerous exceptions permitted on Telegraph.)
Craig Becker, owner of Caffe Mediterranean and president of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, welcomed the council decision.
"I'm opposed to quotas," Becker told this newspaper. "It's a little too Soviet for me."
Representatives of the Telegraph Avenue Restaurant Association did not attend the June 25 meeting and did not return calls before deadline.
In an April letter to the zoning board, association members Alex Popov, Jahanshah Jowharchi, Linda Gilman and Jimmy Shamien argued that conversion of the permitted use from retail to food service would erode the diversity of the business district.
"The district is already oversaturated with restaurants and quick service establishments in particular," the letter said. "In the last year alone, five new restaurants have opened up in previously nonfood use locations."
The letter further pointed to "real financial pain as a result of increased competition."
After the meeting, Councilman Kriss Worthington, who was joined by colleague Jesse Arreguin in casting dissenting council votes, said converting retail to restaurant space further restricted goods and services available to nearby residents.
He argued that the push for more restaurants on the avenue came from landlords, who would be able to charge more rent for restaurants than for retail.
But Becker said he welcomes competition and pointed to Sweet Leaf, a cafe that recently opened near his business.
"I'm in favor of ending quotas," he said. "We can collaborate to make the block better."
In May, the council passed a resolution asking the Planning Commission to study relaxing quotas on Telegraph "to better meet the needs of those who frequent the neighborhood."