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Jan 31, 2012 07:24 PM

A little less Gioia in Berkeley (regulations run amok?)

I made my usual Saturday lunchtime stop at Gioia Pizzeria in Berkeley, which for my $ is possibly the best pizza in the bay area, and what did I find? No more seating! you cannot even "legally" eat at the counter! Apparently the powers that be are requiring that Gioia be take-out only. (Who knows --maybe because they lack a bathroom?)

OK, so it is not the end of the world: it's not as though lives depend on people being able to sit at the tiny counterspace to nosh on a slice. On the other hand, I doubt and person has EVER suffered harm (other then a stubbed toe) because the place offered a bit of seating.

Stupid Berkeley :-(

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  1. Are you sure this wasn't some sort of ADA or other issue that wasn't Berkeley-specific, prompted by some sort of litigation?

    10 Replies
    1. re: lmnopm

      Sounds like a zoning issue. I believe that in that block a carry-out food store (which by definition has no seating) under 1000 square feet doesn't have to provide any off-street parking. Adding seating turns it into a quick-service restaurant, which has to provide one off-street space per 300 square feet.

      The owner probably knew the rules since they opened with no seating.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Could be. They had a sign briefly explaining the changes which indicated it had something to do with the city. The person behind the counter did not know details. So I will step back from speculating as to the reason why. The parking space requirement is one I was not aware: this is even sillier than a bathroom regulation.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Didn't know that rule. Magnani's has seating. Is it larger than 1000 square feet?

          1. re: Glencora

            1000 square feet is the point at which a place without seating has to provide off-street parking. Add seating, that drops to 300 square feet.

            The city generally doesn't enforce any of this stuff after a permit is issued unless there's a complaint, which is why there's so much bait-and-switch by permit applicants.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              There is also a Chinese restaurant in that section and no off-street parking. Seems unfair to single out one place.

              The bathroom requirement or even fire code (ie. too many people inside at once) may have been the issue.

              1. re: Scott M

                Lilly's has been a restaurant for ages and is grandfathered in.

                The city's not necessarily singling out any one business. There's bad blood between some of the Hopkins Street merchants and Monterey Market, that could have led to complaints back and forth, maybe they inspected everybody.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  bad blood huh? that would explain the comments. one of the weekly routines i look forward too is my market runs - i hit monterey produce, drop off the goodies at car, head over to gioia to grab a slice, then hit the fish market and magnani's, then back to the car.

                  so i mention this being my favorite time to the checker at monterey produce, he makes a funky comment under his breathe, i didn't catch it all, but knew what he was saying. then as i was waiting at magnani's, one of the guys there made a comment about the produce market to another customer (actually i think was other way around). they both laughed in a way that now, given what you've said about bad blood robert, makes sense.

                  wonder what happened. oh well, as long as i can still get my slice. i hate that it can get cramped, and it's really annoying when it gets busy and i am using my walker (i have mobility issues so sometimes i'm using my cane, my walker, or my wheelchair). it can be really difficult. good 'ole berkeley!

                  angela :)

                  1. re: ladybugsmom

                    The East Bay Express article linked to below explains the bad blood.

                2. re: Scott M

                  Whose is the parking lot in back of all those businesses?

                  1. re: wally

                    Presumably shared by some or all of the businesses per the terms of their leases. Conceivably some of it was declared as off-street parking when somebody got a permit. I know a lot of places in town that officially have off-street spaces but in reality have no customer parking.

        2. Someone once remarked that the signs at the Berkeley city limits should read:

          "Welcome to Berkeley. Don't Do That."

          1. Not covered, but there are a couple of nice benches on the corner across Hopkins that are provided by the real estate office.

            2 Replies
            1. re: adrienne156

              that's why berzerkley's food scene is dying.

              1. re: Mission

                Because a non-restaurant provided benches? I'm sorry, I don't get it.

            2. I noticed a sign in the Coffee Market yesterday saying that Monterey Market's "predatory pricing" of items already stocked by other stores on that block is going to force them all out of business. So there is definitely some bad blood. If it's true that the "locally and family owned" businesses are threatened, that's a shame. I have so say, though, the prices at the Coffee Market did seem high.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Glencora

                That sign was in all of the stores, including Monterey Fish and Magnani's around 6-8 months ago. They specifically mentioned the guy that sells flowers.

                  1. re: majordanby

                    Interesting. I only buy produce (sometimes milk) at the MM so I hadn't really noticed that they've added other products. I'll continue to not buy them.

                    1. re: majordanby

                      Monterey Market's products always overlapped those of the retailers in the next block.

                      Their glory days were definitely long ago. In the 70s I used to schlep from SF to go there because their produce was the best to be had. By the mid-80s, farmers markets surpassed them on that. In the past 15 years, I've gone there only for items such as obscure varieties of wild mushrooms and apples, of which they have a better selection than the Bowl.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        There was definitely some bad blood which appeared to be motivated by the guy who sells flowers. I find the "predatory pricing" charge a bit hard to swallow. Magnani has chosen to stock things MM also sells like cans of tuna, boxes of pasta, etc. Perhaps if they were to go a different rout and develop the butcher counter to be more than just chicken (and small amounts of other meats), they would have a niche than MM would not follow, since it lacks the space. MM also may compete a bit with the Country Cheese shop, but frankly, though I want to like them, every time I have bought cheese there, it tastes like it has been in the back of a refrigerator too long. MM does not really stock much of their other items. And MM is not about to start a fish counter. Perhaps they should be more concerned that MM would move away to a larger space, since MM is really what draws the shoppers.

                        1. re: MagicMarkR

                          I noticed a petition in Country Cheese the other day, but didn't choose to sign it because it seemed silly. Like others who have commented above, I buy produce at MM, fish at Monterey Fish, tea and chocolate at Country Cheese (I like store, but they sell cheese in larger blocks than I want, and I haven't always been impressed with the cheese I have bought there), and the fantastic morning buns at the Hopkins Street Bakery.

                          But to get back to Gioia, if they're now all take out I hope they'll start offering boxes to people who order less than a whole pizza. I find those paper plates and paper bags incredibly annoying.

                  2. Liz, Gioa employee, confirmed that it's the lack of a bathroom. I can't believe the city even made them take down the little stand-up counter that ran out side Gioia.