On a day when Emeryville’s Small Business Minimum Wage officially hit $15/hr., Navi Kitchen announced their closure at 5000 Adeline. Navi opened in the location barely a year ago amid much hype.
“We are grateful for your patronage and support to bring something new to our neighborhood,” Chef Preeti Mistry and her wife & business partner Ann Nadeau announced in an Instagram post. “Together we raised thousands of dollars for Destiny Arts, Planting Justice and Black Lives Matter through sales of tikka masala mac & cheese to warming bowls of dol. We’ve decided to close and move on to other things in our lives. Thank you for supporting and enjoying Navi Kitchen!”
Mistry brought a bit of celebrity to Emeryville with appearances on Top Chef and Anthony Bordain’s “Parts Unknown”. Mistry expressed grief and appreciation about Bourdain’s passing in a recent interview on local ABC Channel 7.
The interior of Navi was bright and welcoming and the patio space was vast and tranquil. The food was innovative and the positive press was ample. These factors were apparently not enough to sustain the neighborhood cafe.
Patrons of the business expressed sadness of the news but speculated that their inconsistent hours, prices and location were their primary reasons for their failure. “The food is overpriced considering the quality.” seamed to be a recurring theme in their generally high four-star Yelp reviews. “Business hours are odd considering that this place is basically a neighborhood café …”
Navi made several adjustments to try to make things work at the location including shuttering dinner service, tweaking their menu and pushing take-out of their Indian pizzas before ultimately calling it quits.
Navi opened with a 15% service fee to offset the rising labor costs noting its use for “fair pay for all staff”. They also included menu items with a $1 surcharge to support a variety of social justice causes.
Mistry also recently sold her Oakland Temescal neighborhood Juhu Beach Club location in January but teased of a possible comeback. “There will be a 3.0,” Mistri told Eater SF last September. “We can’t totally talk about it yet but it’s not going away. I’m not going away.”
The location at 5000 Adeline has been a challenging one for a business to succeed. It was vacant for a long time before Basic Cafe took a chance on the location in 2015. Basic had some of the same struggles with inconsistent hours and service and shuttered a year later. Basic teased reopening as Estelle Restaurant before Navi announced their lease signing.
Mistry, like most restaurant owners, was supportive of the theory of the higher wages but acknowledged the challenges it brought to the restaurant business that has traditionally relied on lower wages to make their meals affordable to families. “The increasing cost of living in the Bay Area doesn’t help,” she noted in conversation with us during their opening. “We’d love to pay people more but there’s only so much we can charge for food and therefore only so much we can pay them.”
Emeryville’s Small business minimum wage matched SF’s highest in the nation scale jumping to $15/hr. while “large” businesses over 55 employees increased to $15.69. Emeryville’s small and large business wages will reclaim the nation’s highest next year when they are scheduled to merge at an anticipated $16.00 an hour and then transition to annual CPI increases.