BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) —
Crowds still gather outside the now shuttered Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley. They read signs, notes, and old newspaper articles that cover the windows and the front door.
These messages continue a conversation many feel the owners tried to silence by abruptly shutting down.
“It’s kind of a lost opportunity,” said Berkeley resident Jenna Spagnolo. “But perhaps the opportunity was lost years ago.”
Spagnolo is talking about an incident in 2015. W. Kamau Bell accused a server of being racist. He stopped by a table where his wife was sitting, and was told by the server to leave.
Earlier this month, a video went viral showing police arrest two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. The incident involving Bell came back up in the media and days later, the Elmwood Cafe closed without warning.
“I wanted to hear from them that they were going to address it directly and really do more to address racial bias,” said Spagnolo. “So I’m not surprised it has taken this turn.”
Some of the notes share fond memories of the cafe including favorite menu items.
There are notes of love and tolerance. Someone posted a Black Lives Matter sign. Some notes accuse the cafe of racism.
Michel Sadik interviewed for a job at the restaurant once. He calls this a wakeup call for other businesses.
“Be more open minded,” said Sadik. “And I think one of the first things they should do is hire more people of color to make the space more welcoming to everybody.”
The owner did not respond to a request for an interview. A post on the cafe’s website thanks the community for its support through the years.
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