Berkeley Social Club — the latest in a long string of businesses to occupy what has been dubbed the “Bermuda Triangle” of restaurants — is scheduled to open at 2050 University Ave. in August.
The new restaurant will offer breakfast and lunch with a “Korean element” and dinner with a “contemporary interpretation of Korean cuisine,” according to owner Steven Choi. Choi also owns restaurants in San Francisco and Marin County; however, this will be his first restaurant in the East Bay.
“Hopefully we can reproduce the same success in Berkeley,” Choi said. “I have never failed in any restaurant.”
Choi said he was not worried about the high turnover rate of previous businesses in the location and added that he was confident his restaurant will be a good fit for Berkeley. The restaurant will not be “traditional Korean like you see in other restaurants,” according to Choi, and it will offer tap beers.
The previous restaurant at that location, Perdition Smokehouse — known for offering craft beers on draft — closed in October after more than a year of business. Before that, a cafe called Amadeus closed within a week of its opening in 2013.
The location has seen many short-lived business ventures since 2008, when restaurant Plearn Thai moved out after almost 25 years.
Neighboring business owners and employees said the high turnover rate is due to increasing rents, mismanagement and high competition. Karan Rekhi, manager at Bobby G’s Pizzeria — located on the same block as Berkeley Social Club — added that most restaurants lose money in their first year of business and the high rent in Berkeley makes it even harder for restaurants to stay open.
“There are certain locations that just frequently turn over and become something new,” said Emilio Caudillo, a barista at the Shattuck Starbucks location. “It’s very difficult to have those businesses there consistently.”
Tsering Choedup, manager of Cafe Tibet, also located on the same block, said there is huge competition among restaurants in Berkeley. He added that his business has been declining over the years as a result.
“Today, every block you go, you find a restaurant,” Choedup said.
Several business owners added that it was harder to maintain business in a college town because college students have less money to spend. Caudillo said college students cannot “afford to go to (restaurants) frequently.”
Large brands such as Starbucks have an advantage over local restaurants, according to Caudillo, because people are more willing to pay high prices for a “corporate brand” that is “really recognizable to everyone.”
Several local customers, however, said they were optimistic about the new restaurant. Berkeley resident Amelia Cavalier said she found the concept behind Berkeley Social Club “cool” and that she would definitely try it.