Tartine Bakery is permanently closing its Berkeley location only 7 months after opening, the SF Chronicle reports. A letter from management said that its contract with the Graduate Hotel (which housed the cafe) was ended due to a coronavirus-related decline in business. The decision comes about a month after workers at the Berkeley cafe voted unanimously to unionize.
Tartine’s Berkeley cafe was the fifth Bay Area location for the rapidly expanding bakery, and the one first established in the East Bay. It opened in September in a sunny room in the Graduate Hotel, close to UC Berkeley campus, right as students and professors were returning to classes. Offering a 10 percent discount to students, the bakery served its award-winning sourdough bread, morning buns, open-faced sandwiches, and locally roasted coffee.
The Tartine Union broke the news of the closing in an Instagram post, with workers saying they had received a letter from Tartine attorneys, stating that the building management had ended its contract, due to “business decline” and “COVID-19.” The Chronicle confirmed with owner Liz Pruiett that the closure was the hotel’s decision, and workers also shared that this location never found a strong following, with business dropping when students weren’t on campus.
The decision also follows an unanimous vote by Tartine workers to unionize at this specific location. “Tartine Berkeley was the only Tartine workplace that did not receive any support from management for months, did not endure a ruthless anti-union campaign, and voted unanimously 18-0 for the the ILWU to represent them,” the union’s Instagram post reads. “COVID-19 has been the perfect excuse for employers to upend peoples jobs. Tartine Berkeley staff will not have a place to come back to work.”
It’s been a tumultuous year for Tartine. In the midst of rapid expansion, bakery’s original location in San Francisco’s Mission District was briefly shut down by the city’s health department just a week before Thanksgiving. Then, it’s large and expensive LA Manufactory permanently closed just a week before Christmas. Additionally, the owners have publicly clashed with employees over unionization efforts, up to the weeks leading up to the coronavirus crisis — then, as the crisis hit, those employees were laid off. For now, Tartine appears to be moving forward with its other expansion plans — Tartine Santa Monica opened on March 17, one day after the shelter in place went into effect in the Bay Area.