Mad Monk, the ambitious new two-story project from Rasputin Music and Blondie's Pizza owner Ken Sarachan, is currently working its way through the permitting process in Berkeley, and just secured some major approvals last week. Housed in the iconic former Cody's Bookstore building that's been shuttered since 2006, the complex would celebrate "anachronistic media" with a performance space, flower kiosk, coffee shop, vinyl record shop, and most relevant to our interests, a 50-seat restaurant with a full bar, called Commissar. The culinary focus would be Russian-influenced "upscale peasant's and worker's food...The recipes are primarily vegetarian/world vegetarian prepared in a manner that would suit a discriminating Soviet Official's culinary tastes," Sarachan writes in his permit application.
Events like readings, poetry slams, comedy shows, and indie/folk rock concerts would be held in the performance space five nights a week, and Craig Becker, the president of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, thinks it would bring a much-needed booster shot to the area's declining nightlife options. "We need nightlife on Telegraph. It's not enough to depend on books and music," he told the board, according to Berkeleyside.
Mad Monk (which is, appropriately, named after a nickname for Rasputin), secured a batch of permits from the Berkeley zoning commissioners last week, and is also relying on the assistance of Guest Chef and Bariata impresario Scott Cameron, who will be the on-site manager. The space will have frontage on both Haste and Telegraph Aves., and be open until 2 am every night save Sunday. The next step is seismic upgrades and accessibility compliance, which the space is undergoing right now. The hope is to open sometime in the fall.