A sad day for North Oakland and the surrounding area as Actual Cafe announced its closure after seven years in business. “You are the reason that we were able to do what we’ve done in the last seven years” noted owner Sal Bednarz in a letter addressed to his customers. “To help foster a more vibrant, walkable neighborhood for all to enjoy.” Adjacent sister restaurant Victory Burger, which opened in 2012, will also shutter. Their final day of service will be December 23rd.
Their departure will leave a huge hole not only in the epicenter of North Oakland, but the community. Much of the momentum of North Oakland can be tied to Actual Cafe which established a community “hub” on the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Alcatraz. Bednarz lived in the neighborhood and sponsored and helped coordinate the annual Love our Neighborhood Day that shut down San Pablo Avenue to vehicle traffic.
It’s a tumultuous time for the Restaurant industry and even established restaurants are not immune from the triple-threat of rising labor costs, rents and a reported labor shortage. Semifreddi’s on Claremont recently shuttered citing the tandem of rents and labor and Cafe Rouge on 4th Street in Berkeley recently announced they are calling it quits after 20 years. Sal’s partner Gail Lillian recently decided to take her long running food truck Liba Falafel out of business. “We sincerely hope that the City of Oakland will assess the true impact of local mandates and generate programs to help small businesses flourish in this City because we are hurting.” noted alaMar Kitchen and Bar in this Eater SF article that referred to the rash of closings as a “Death March”.
Bednarz hinted at the impacts of the housing crisis and competition making it increasingly difficult to find local, qualified labor. He also hinted at the high cost of living for residents making it increasingly difficult to swallow the higher costs that are being passed onto them. “Your support wasn’t enough to overcome our own missteps and the growing challenges of running a small business here.”
Bednarz noted he’s looking to sell the space and hoped it would happen soon. “I am so grateful to have been able to create and run this particular restaurant, in this particular neighborhood, for the last seven years. I value the relationships I’ve built with you as individuals, and with other businesses and organizations over this time. I am a better, wiser, human being as a result, and you can’t put a value on that.”