North Oakland’s Actual Cafe and Victory Burger closing

Published On December 16, 2016 | By Rob Arias | Local Business, News & Commentary

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”.

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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.”

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About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. He can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, riding the greenway to and from the Berkeley Bowl or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

17 Responses to North Oakland’s Actual Cafe and Victory Burger closing

  1. Nicole Gruen says:

    Greed is taking over. There needs to be a cap on rents.

    So sad to see good businesses close.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And another one down, and another one…another one bites the dust.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So sorry to Actual Cafe and Victory Burger’s employees. One hell of a Christmas gift.

  4. Jussaying says:

    *”shuttered” (not “shuddered”)

  5. A former employee at Actul Cafe says:

    I was a former worker at Actual cafe for almost two and a half years. Speaking on behalf of all his former employees, he treated us like garbage. He never respected us, thanked us for our hard work, and talked down to us.

    This has nothing to do with lack of experienced workers. We had a great deal of people inquiring about working at actual and turning in qualified resumes.

    The neighborhood, the customers, my coworkers, and managers made life at Actual Cafe bearable. I am so appreciative of my time there.

    But Sal, please just own up to your mistakes and your shitty attitude towards the ones who helped build such a wonderful place.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not to mention he was not on top of his payroll. There were many times many of us were told we got a raise, but only to find out a month or two later that it didn’t actually happen. It was some of our own faults for not checking our paychecks online since most of us did direct deposit.

    • Eileen Murphy says:

      Thank you for speaking the truth, from an Actual Employee!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Victory Burger never had a line out the door because the food was terrible.

    The egalitarian attitude that we should put away our phones and laptops on weekends also drove us away on weekdays. Goodbye.

  7. Actually says:

    Wow. Chalk up entitled millennials as another reason for Actual’s demise. Hopefully his former employees will find other jobs where they get to be dismissive toward customers and still earn $15/hr.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lol “entitled millennials”, sure thing buddy. There were many people different ages, races, genders and sexual orientation. And many of us are doing a lot better since quitting. Some of us now work in the school industry, post office, go to school, travel, and own their own successful business now. We’re a doing a lot better thanks

  8. Leslie says:

    I am sad to see it go as it was a wonderful environment and secondary office. I did not know of labor practices by the owner so I am disheartened to read about this but not surprised. Regardless, sad day as a regular customer!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Never take one disgruntled employee as god’s truth. We’ve all had the coworker who is an absolute disaster but complains incessantly about everyone and everything as loudly and publicly as possible. Sal has a reputation for what he’s done for the neighborhood and the community. If you want to kick a guy when he’s down because you didn’t get exactly what your entitled little butt wanted, put your name on the comment and stand behind your accusations.

    For Sal, hey there’s at least an upside that you don’t have to deal with this twerp any more.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not just that one disgruntled employee. It’s everyone of us who has worked there. All of us have the same thoughts on this! Please don’t speak on a matter you know nothing of. The labor practices were terrible for all of us.

    • Anonymous says:

      “All of us have the same thoughts on this”…says one person speaking anonymously and “on behalf of everyone”…

      “He never respected us, thanked us for our hard work, and talked down to us.” Oh, you poor thing. He talked down to you? Your boss? Oh how terrible. And he wasn’t thanking you in addition to paying you? Well that’s just awful.

      How about this description instead: “He gave a lot of people jobs during a recession, did what was required to create a beloved local restaurant and pay the bills in incredibly tough times, spent countless hours trying to organize the businesses locally to ensure a future for local entry level workers and locally owned restaurants, lobbied for an increase in the minimum wage on your behalf, and put up with a lot of nonsense from 20-somethings who felt injured that their boss was more interested in keeping the boat afloat than saying ‘great job there cowboy’.”

      If he was beating the workers or stealing half your wages, let’s hear about it.

      But if he talked down to you, maybe it’s because he was, in fact, above you.

      • Anonymous says:

        The conversations by former employees about this situation right now are a lot less nice than the points I was trying to make. I don’t know why you’re so convinced all of us were twenty year olds and entitled little brats. But sure if that’s what you wanna argue go ahead. He’s not a saint like you’re trying to make him out to be.

        Lol anywayys, the people that worked there know the truth and I really don’t need to prove anything more to you.

  10. Paul R says:

    Another reason to say F##k You 2016. What a year! Actual Cafe was an anchor business in a neighborhood before $800,000 condos and other restaurants. Sal was a pioneer and took risks nobody else wanted to take in 2009.

    I know Sal and his heart was in the right place. He tried to make all the right decisions whether food quality or concerning labor. Does everybody in an organization or business love their boss…hell no! Somebody has to be in charge, make tough decisions and call people on their bullshit. If you are in charge and everybody loves you, you are either not really running things or not doing your job.

    As for Victory Burger I always got quality food at a great price!

    Aloha, Actual Cafe and Victory Burger. You will be missed

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