Russian Hill’s Berber on Broadway is about to close for good. The Michelin Guide-recommended North African restaurant and venue will serve its final spiced shakshuka on Saturday, March 2. The five years Berber spent in the neighborhood and the city were, for owners Tony Garnicki and Borhen Hammami, a high watermark for Moroccan food and dance. “The journey of pursuing a dream turned supper club between best friends turned business partners,” Garnicki says, “it’s been an incredible thing to witness.”
The restaurant’s business has been on a steady decline since the worst of the pandemic. Garnicki says the lack of tourism and conference scheduling in San Francisco, coupled with fewer people going out to eat in the city, has made operating the business impossible. In November 2023 the San Francisco Business Times reported on eviction possibilities for Berber, but Garnicki says he and the landlord were able to come to an agreement. It just wasn’t enough to keep the flames burning, nor the only piece of the puzzle. Berber also paid out about $98,000 to 52 employees, per the San Francisco Chronicle, for alleged Health Care Security Ordinance violations in 2022.
But when Berber opened in 2017 it was seen as an imaginative, expressive new kind of restaurant in San Francisco. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant and performance space highlighted food from Nick Balla of Bar Tartine and Duna with five-course menus and aerial acrobatics to entertain guests. Michelin Guide inspectors took notice in short order, adding the restaurant as a recommended pick. Garnicki says the recent negative narrative of the city in major media has stopped many of the larger Bay Area fans from driving in to enjoy the mezze and dancing.
There will be special events between now and March 2 with a tremendous final dinner show in the works. For Garnicki, the Berber brand will live on as he finds new ways to bring that food and dance experience to San Francisco again. Once that is ready, fans will know. “Berber became a cultural hub for the arts,” Garnicki says. “I love this city and I hope our story inspires others to forge new dining concepts to bring our city back to life.”
Berber (1516 Broadway) closes on Saturday, March 2, and is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, until that final date.