Berkeley Fourth Street landmark Bette’s Oceanview Diner is no more. The pioneering eatery shut its doors permanently and suddenly Monday, Berkeleyside reports.
Known for its classic diner fare made from scratch with fresh, local ingredients, and retro style, the super-popular restaurant had nearly reached its 40-year anniversary, which would have been this April. Husband and wife Bette and Manfred Kroening founded Bette's in 1982, helping to anchor the then-new commercial district under the vision of developer Denny Abrams.
Bette Kroening had worked at the popular Fourth Street Grill and under Narsai David at Narsai's in Kensington before opening her namesake diner with Manfred and chef Sue Conley, who went on to found Cowgirl Creamery.
Bette Kroening died in 2017 at the age of 71, and husband Manfred considered closing the business at that time, he told Berkeleyside. Ultimately, he kept it going, but as the pandemic made running the restaurant more and more of a chore, and Bette's lease was set to expire this summer, Kroening said he decided it was finally time to retire.
Pandemic stress, constantly changing regulations and the requirement for staff to enforce the regulations made it hard to keep or find enough workers, said Kroening, 67, leading him to work most shifts himself.
“We had people who had worked here three, four years just walking off the job due to stress,” Kroening told Berkeleyside, and “when we had to start checking vaccination proof and ID? That might have been the last straw. So many [diners] got so angry. It was constant tension with the customers. It’s no fun to run a business like that.”
Kroening said he'd hoped someone would buy Bette's and keep it going, but that didn't happen. Monday, he announced to staff that Bette's would close permanently. Still, he said he hopes that the space will reopen as a restaurant under other owners.
“I hope that soon, there will be a new generation of young people who will take over the space and make it something cool again,” the restaurateur told Berkeleyside. “Maybe they can scrape off the ‘Bette’s’ and just call it Oceanview Diner. Would anyone even know the difference?”
Meanwhile, developer Abrams told the paper he's looking for a way for the restaurant to reopen: “Why wouldn’t I? It’s the greatest.”