Emeryville Triangle Neighborhood Cafe Navi Kitchen announces sudden closure

Published On July 1, 2018 | By Rob Arias | News & Commentary, Restaurants

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!”

A post shared by Navi Kitchen (@navikitchen) on

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.

Mistry achieved celebrity chef status with appearances on Top Chef and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown (Photo: @HelenCho via Twitter).

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.


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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.

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

19 Responses to Emeryville Triangle Neighborhood Cafe Navi Kitchen announces sudden closure

  1. Philip Epstein says:

    I’m not hating but I enjoyed Namaste pizza a lot more and they’re still open thankfully! Yelp page:

    https://yelp.to/qTKq/h6F7Upw9cO

  2. Stiles says:

    As a former resident of the Bakery Lofts space, I was glad to see them come in but skeptical that they would survive long term with their hours, food offerings and pricing. Many residents commute or work from home and earlier breakfast hours featuring fancy coffee drinks and grab and go healthy/traditional greasy/vegan breakfast food options would have been very welcome since there’s nothing in walking distance (or along the route to the MacArtur BART) there for residents and neighbors. There’s no affordable pizza either other than Arthur Mac’s by BART, so more traditional pizza may have worked better than Indian style pizza. Considering the rent and the wage, being open 10-4 in an area with little foot traffic seems suicidal. Go two shifts, stay open 7a – 9p and do breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner/pizza basics (or breakfast/Mexican) very well for a reasonable price with to go and maybe a beer license and you have a profitable winner, even with the small footprint.

  3. Karen says:

    That’s really too bad. I lived in the neighborhood and Navi was a wonderful addition to it. Unfortunately, I have to agree that the high prices matched the high quality of the food, but also made it difficult to just stop by for a snack as a neighborhood-cafe. Best wishes to the chef-owners and I wish them the best in life. I also hope a nice bar-cafe with reasonable prices, good coffee, micro-brewery beers, and yummy snacks can find a home in that nook.

    • Bob Hughes says:

      Rob –

      As your above commentators note, it’s not the Minimum Wage Ordinance (which you anachronistically and constantly denigrate unfairly) which closes small restaurants in Emeryville – it’s being off the beaten paths, going in the neighborhoods, with unrealistically high prices no matter what the quality of the food. You don;t see Wally close, nor Honor Kitchen, nor the multi restaurants in the Arizmendi block. For god’s sake, lay off that little speck of history, the MWO.

      • Anonymous says:

        Bob, that’s total nonsense. Go around and ask the restaurant owners in the community how the MWO has impacted them. They will tell you that it has made it nearly impossible to stay afloat. They’ve cut food quality, dropped managers, dropped table service, dropped benefits, and reduced hours, and many long-standing, successful restaurants just closed outright after realizing it was impossible here.

        You clearly haven’t talked to the restaurant owners in the Arizmendi block. I have. They will tell you that they’re barely surviving. Note how slow the service is now. Talk to all the restaurant owners who closed shop since the MWO appeared. Talk to the owners who have dropped almost their entire staff and run the restaurants themselves with their family because those are the only people they can avoid paying the ridiculous minimum wage.

        The MWO is killing businesses left and right here, and then everyone blames the service, hours, price, and food quality.

        Guess why the service, hours, price, and food quality suffer? Because that’s what suffers when your bus boy is making the same as most college grads.

        The MWO is not a speck of history. It’s a disaster that needs to be repealed. Enough employees have lost their jobs and enough small businesses have lost their shirts. The SEIU got what it wanted. It did its national press tour. Now get rid of the MWO.

        How many employers do you need to tell you that the labor costs are killing them? How many restaurants have to close? How many retailers have to go under?

      • Anonymous says:

        When you hear two elected officials getting the first bit of data about the minimum wage ordinance going into effect saying ” it doesn’t look good”. And their willful ignorance of simple economics or staff study is a shear sign of incompetence.

      • another anonymous says:

        Anonymous has some spot on points. Many of the restaurants that remain have raised prices to the non-competitive point, reduced staff & hours and had to lower the quality of the food. Restaurants survive on very thin margins and $15 – $16 an hour can easily break their backs.

      • Anon 3.0 says:

        I want to live in Bob’s World. What a truly magical and utopian place it must be!

        A world where 25% increases in menu prices only increases business. Everyone is so eager to pay more because they know that the extra cost is going toward helping people making less money than them and they dine out more frequently as a result.

        A world where doubling the minimum wage and labor costs in a short span does not hinder a business whatsoever but only helps a business as now everyone can afford a $20 burger.

        A world where the cost of labor is never responsible for layoffs, business closures, diminished service or checks that make people gulp out loud. If a business fails, well, I guess they must be horrible at running a business.

        A world where we no longer need neighborhood cafe’s. Screw them. We have Door Dash and Uber Eats so we can have food delivered straight to us and eat in our PJ’s in front of the TV and never need to mingle with our neighbors. Once they perfect that pizza-making robot that delivers via drone, we will be one step closer to achieving our true utopia.

        A world where those that make $15/hr can now rent a $2500/mo. studio without roommates because everyone who is employed in our city should now be able to live next to their job and will immediately abandon their car and we will no longer need parking or road improvements.

        A world where the only criterion for a Yelp review is how supportive they are toward my favorite cause. Do they support the ACLU? Well, they get 5 stars from me.

        A world where we can magically inflate wages to keep up with rents without actually building housing. Screw it. Let’s block the Sherwin Project, build a park and jack up the minimum wage to $25/hr.! Measure C will make housing affordable for all!

        Math and economics be damned, we want and believe in this world therefore that is how it will be.

        So Bob, you’re one of those Artist Co-op guys, right? Can you get me in so I can live in your utopian world of rent controled, city-subsidized, non-property tax paying, only issue with the city is complaining about trees world of yours?

      • Anonymous says:

        The Artists Co-op doesn’t pay property taxes?!?! @$&(!

        How the hell do they get away with that?

      • Rob Arias says:

        I don’t know this to be true. Perhaps Mr. Hughes can enlighten us. I know there are some property tax exemptions for nonprofits which I believe the coop is structured as. They’ve been around for nearly 50 years so I’m sure their assessment is relatively low. I doubt anyone really cares that much except for the fact that some of our most outspoken voices on what other people are paying live there.

        The records are public if you want to research yourself:
        https://www.acgov.org/ptax_pub_app/RealSearchInit.do?showSearchParmsFromLookup=true

  4. Anonymous says:

    Employers ought to lower wages to $10.00, or $5.00 if they can get away with it. This way they can realllllly profit off the backs of the hard-working staff, eh? Why stop at the most current minimum wage? Let’s bring it back to 1950s wages!

    It’s only fair that wait staff should suffer, work hard, sacrifice, drive long commutes, and not be able to afford rent, right? I mean, I don’t want my omelettes to cost $1.00 more. That’d be communism, and we who don’t work in the restaurant business are entitled to cheap food no matter how well paid we are.

    It’s the only thing that makes sense. The lowest paid people need their burdens increased, so that owners and landlords can finally get their share of that filthy, filthy tech lucre. Made sweeter by dipping in the pockets of their loyal staff, and sweeter yet by their tears.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry, wait staff are already an endangered species in Emeryville. Counter service only. The jobs are gone. Poof. We needed their salary to pay the irregular high school junior $15+ per hour to bus tables. Wait staff were expendable, but the tables still have to be cleaned. He also has sick leave for when he doesn’t feel like coming in.

      He’s living large though! His parents make WAY north of six figures and he’s got a dope ride, much better than the cars the wait staff you forced into the unemployment line are living out of.

      Speaking of which, that “living wage” buys a high school kid a hell of a lot of weed. When you notice how dirty the tables normally are, that probably explains it.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t know which restaurants you frequent, but in the inner bay all I ever see are adults. (Workers over 25 make up about half of all mw workers nationwide, IIRC. They are predominantly white women, not the stereotype of a young male on weed).

        They also work in industries other than food service, including hospitality and home care work.

        By the way, here’s the minimum wage schedule:

        https://www.ci.emeryville.ca.us/1024/Minimum-Wage-Ordinance

        July 2, 2015 $12.25 $14.44
        July 1, 2016 $13.00 $14.82 (CPI)
        July 1, 2017 $14.00 $15.20 (CPI)
        July 1, 2018 $15.00 $15.69 (CPI)

        July 1, 2019 $16.00 est. (CPI)
        July 1, 2020 $16.42 est. (CPI)

        That’s hardly “doubling” in “a short span”, and it’s nowhere near what college grads make in the Bay, unless you’re really doing something wrong.

        By the way, the vast majority of MW workers have, at minimum, graduated high school.

      • Anonymous says:

        Let’s see, the California Minimum Wage was $7.50 in 2007. In Emeryville, the minimum wage is $15.00 in 2018 for small business. That’s exactly doubling in an incredibly short period of time. Did your salary double in the last 10 years? Can an employer afford to double their labor costs in 10 years?

        If you were a larger retailer in Emeryville, the move was from $9 to $14.44 with 30 days notice. There is no other city, region, or state in the country that has ever raised the minimum wage in this extreme, this rapid, and this stupid a way. It was done to benefit the SEIU and meet their timeline for marketing the $15 minimum wage to the rest of California. It had nothing to do with Emeryville, its businesses, or its workers. Go back and look at the photos from the MWO meetings. 100% outside SEIU advocates from outside the city (they’re the ones barely getting by wearing the matching printed shirts).

        Because the minimum wage is so high, few employers can afford to hire youth or the unskilled poor any more. This hurts everyone.

        The young don’t get experience and are discouraged from working. The older worker has no one to manage so they do the jobs that previously went to high school kids. The business is forced to pay excessively for jobs that require no skill causing many to fail and the remained to eliminate jobs, and all workers are discouraged from developing while you, the consumer, pay more for lousy food and service. It is a crisis of low expectations where everyone moves down the ladder one rung.

        The young are screwed and never get started. The poor lose their jobs and move into tents. The middle move down to the jobs previously held by the poor. And the upper middle are now running businesses that don’t have a prayer.

        When a worker who is 30 says “I can’t live off the minimum wage”, is the right response to ask them “why are you still making the minimum wage at 30?” Or to just double their salary? In Emeryville, the choice was the latter. And the low skilled worker lost his job as a result.

        Says the millennial: “Why should I have to advance or acquire skills?”
        Says the progressive: “You shouldn’t.”
        Says the millennial: “Why can’t I make a living wage as a fast food cashier?”
        Says the progressive: “You shall.”
        Says the business owner: “Here’s your pink slip. At that wage, I need someone better.”

        The goal of a “living wage” was to make it possible to live and raise a family without having to develop AT ALL, that is, to make it possible to start and end your career at an entry level job that previously went to a high school student for 6-9 months before he earned his first raise.

        A “minimum” wage should NEVER be a “living wage”. It is intended to be a bridge between ‘no-skill and skill’, between ‘unemployed and employed’, and between ‘poverty and the workforce’. You don’t stop on the bridge and enjoy the view. You cross. And if you don’t, no one else can cross.

        The bridge reaches down to where people are and to pull them up.

        When the bridge is too high, you can’t pull anyone up because you can’t reach down. You can only hire the best, the skilled, the reliable, and the experienced.

        If the minimum wage was $100 per hour, would anyone hire you? Would you be appreciative that the minimum wage is fantastic and that you’ve been priced out of the jobs you have the skill to do?

  5. Transister Sistor says:

    Woah.

  6. Anonymous says:

    https://www.eater.com/2017/6/21/15845608/seattle-minimum-wage-hike-jobs-study

    So,not minimum wage.

    https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/ywb3kb/preeti-mistry-is-shutting-down-her-restaurant-but-shes-not-going-away

    “Mistry is insistent that her decision to close Juhu is not the result of failure. It is simply the outcome of a widening array of opportunities that have come her way.

    “I’d regret spending the next five years of my lease working the line every night and not pursuing some of the opportunities coming my way,” she explains. “It’s going to kill me if I try to do it all. I’d like to be superhuman, but I’m not.” ”

    So, not minimum wage.

    https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/number-of-restaurants-in-san-francisco-shrinking

    Lots of other reasons that make restaurants challenging, including food delivery at home, the Netflix effect, and more. And god-awful RENTS.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Anon for providing a link to the seattle minimum wage study. Emeryville has been put at a tremendous disadvantage since a company can choose to locate in another city due to the wage rates and still serve the same customers (look at Farley’s). As for Seattle, their population is 690,000 covering 143 square miles (everyone is in the same boat), Emeryville on the other hand is 11,000 covering 2.1 square miles (let’s go it alone).

      The original proposal was for a regional minimum wage increase but that couldn’t pass muster with multiple cities. Only our city council took the chance and you’re seeing the results of their decision.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Eater.com article references The Berkeley IRLE study which if you’re unfamiliar with is basically a partisan organization. Their entire board is comprised of labor union leaders vested in a certain outcome:
      http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/about/

      IRLE famously noted that a minimum wage increase to $15 would only increase menu prices 2.3%. Have you dined out in Emeryville lately? Can you honestly say menu prices have only gone up 2.3% since 2014? If they were this far off on this data, how can you trust anything they say?

      The City of Seattle and Mayor that advocated for their $15 wage originally commissioned the University of Washington to study their minimum wage increase impacts. UW determined that workers were actually losing money and it was costing jobs.
      https://www.seattletimes.com/business/uw-study-finds-seattles-minimum-wage-is-costing-jobs/
      So guess what Seattle did? They fired UW and hired IRLE/Michael Reich to resume their “study” (Reich is a self identified Marxist).
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Reich

      The thing is, you don’t need to google the answer you’re looking for that proves your point. Go talk to the owner of your favorite independent neighborhood eatery and ask them. They’ll try to be diplomatic but if they’re candid with you, they’ll tell you the truth which is they’re surviving by raising menu prices drastically, cutting shifts or jobs and that there’s an uncertain future with every $1 increase or whenever the economy turns.

      The other link you provide regarding Juhu closing is not relevant to Navi. Why would she spend so much opening Navi and close it a year later? Her and her partner must have lost their shirts on that endeavor. simply put, most neighborhood cafes in Emeryville lack the foot traffic to sustain a business at these labor and food costs. There are a few exceptions.

      Agreed though, rents are the main culprit. Not falsifying wages.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a link to a discussion of the two Seattle studies. (https://www.seattletimes.com/business/uw-study-finds-seattles-minimum-wage-is-costing-jobs/
    )

    The UC Berkeley study is actually the IRLE which is 100% a non-research, non-academic organization. They are a marketing arm for labor that has managed (somehow) to keep itself tied to the University despite the fact that they don’t do any serious or respected research.

    They are widely known to publish whatever results will continue to see them funded by labor and labor friendly political groups.

    They’re kind of a joke in research circles, and they will ALWAYS be cited as a source for labor activism articles because they are the only ‘academic’ organization that has the gall to reach the conclusions they do. Read any pro-labor piece that claims increasing the minimum wage does not cost jobs, and you will find that it cites the UC Berkeley Labor Center or IRLE.

    As an example, their methodology used to predict “wage growth” for the minimum wage simply ignores job loss (http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cwed/briefs/2014-01-data-and-methods.pdf). They hide that deep in the methodology document because it invalidates 100% of their conclusions: “We do not make any adjustments for potential positive or negative changes in employment due to the minimum wage increase.”

    In other words, under their methodology, it’s impossible for wages to fall because of a minimum wage increase because they ignore employment loss. Under their methodology, raising the minimum wage to $500 per hour would result in an increase in wages even if 80% of people lost their jobs. That’s how bad the IRLE’s research is. It’s laughable.

    In the Seattle case, they put their results out right before the officially commissioned Seattle study came out to try to deflect the damage the official study would have.

    If you want to learn more about the IRLE and it’s complete lack of integrity as a research organization, google “Neumark UC Irvine”. He’s a professor who is frequently cited by the NY Times, the Federal Reserve, and others who diligently and systematically rips the IRLE and UC Berkeley Labor Center apart on behalf of the academic community each time they put out more nonsense.

    The UC Berkeley Labor Center is an embarrassment to the University’s research community and should be separated from the University. They were defunded once by the state because of their political ties, but they privatized their funding to keep going.

    Guess where they found the money.

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