Back in June, we announced that Oakland’s Commonwealth Cafe was expanding into the old Cafe Bier spot on Adeline straddling Emeryville’s Triangle & Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhoods. They optimistically targeted an August 2014 opening date, but some delays with infrastructure and permitting set them back a bit. Ahna & Ross Adair took a chance by opening Commonwealth in an underserved area of KONO (Koreatown/Northgate) along Telegraph, now they’re looking to repeat this formula with “Commonwealth Micropub” in an underserved area of Emeryville that looks poised for growth. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for the duo, but the establishment is set to finally open its doors to the public today. If the traffic we receive on posts for new restaurants are any indication, E’villians are thirsty for more!
Ross & Ahna Adair are bringing the British-style Micropub “Commonwealth” to E’ville.
The space was quite frankly too small to simply replicate the success of their Oakland facility. They instead opted to go with a “Micropub” model similar to the recent U.K. trend. While the Oakland space is open and vast, this space will be more of a cozy, neighborhood spot with an intimate vibe. The interior space has only room for about 25 seats but the outdoor patio seating will effectively double their capacity on sunny days and clear evenings (dog-friendly patio I might add).
In addition to a sidewalk cafe, the pub will also feature the city’s first Bike Corral:
— prinzrob (@prinzrob) February 28, 2015
While Ahna appears to be taking charge of the front-end side of the business, her husband Ross is leading efforts in the kitchen. Ross’s palette is influenced by his upbringing in Scotland where in fact he met Ahna. Unlike the Oakland location, the space is equipped with a gas-line enabling their plans to bring the British favorite Fish & Chips to their “Classic British comfort food” menu (Note: these will be added to the menu in about two weeks). Other additions to the menu include Mussel’s & Pork Belly, Vegan Bangers & Mash & Chicken Pot Pie.
Another distinction from the Oakland location is that there will be no bar but rely on table-service. Nor will there be any bottle selection instead utilizing more efficient taps featuring eight craft beers and a couple ciders. Beer choices will include a variety of local selections including San Leandro’s Drakes, Oakland’s Linden Street & Alameda’s Faction Breweries. Widescreen TV’s mounted in the interior will broadcast British Soccer games and there are future plans for a weekly pub quiz. Plans are to phase in weekend brunch service within a couple of months.
Opening a restaurant in a space that had already been permitted as a food establishment you think would have been more straight forward, but apparently the previous occupants might have *ahem* “cut some corners”. Instead of it being more of a “turnkey” transaction, the space had to receive a considerable structural facelift. “We signed the lease and what happened was the real state of the building started to show itself” noted Ahna. “The project changed from a little elbow grease & new equipment, to major plumbing and electrical work.” Ahna did note that the landlord of the building stepped up to help get the space back to code (a footnote here is that their outdoor signage was painted with “2014” which turned out to be … optimistic!).
And had Ahna known of all the difficulties she would face prior, would she & Ross still have chosen E’ville to expand? The bureaucracy of Emeryville combined with the city’s plight to adopt the highest minimum wage increase in the nation? “Probably not”. The space would have remained vacant. Emeryville would have lost another opportunity to attract a small business, increase neighborhood vibrancy and establish a community gathering spot.
“Small businesses across the board have a hard time maneuvering through building departments and it’s a lot of money in architecture fees, permit fees, and a lot of time spent”. Unexpected delays, difficulties and policy shifts clearly have taken their toll on the couple with two young kids but you get a sense of their strength and resiliency from chatting with them knowing the finish line was within reach. “We haven’t lost our optimism. We’re happy to be here and I think it’s going to be a great spot” noted Ahna. “This is the year of the Micropub!” added Ross.