Berkeley's iconic Fourth Street eatery, Bette's Oceanview Diner, went out of business suddenly last month after nearly 40 years, prompting much mourning among longtime fans. Now, a group of former staff from the restaurant tells Berkeleyside they hope to reopen it as Oceanview Diner by the end of this month.
The diner was known for its retro style and jukebox reminiscent of 1950s driveins, as well as for its classic diner fare made from scratch with fresh, local ingredients – from buttermilk pancakes and waffles to scrapple and a decadent selection of eggs. The workers say both the decor and the menu will remain, and they've purchased the recipes for Bette's staples from the previous owner, husband of the original namesake Bette.
A group of seven former Bette's workers came together to take over the diner with a loan from Bette's landlord and co-founder Denny Abrams of development firm Abrams/Millikan, according to the paper. That group includes financial manager William Bishop, Bette’s To Go manager Rima Ransom and decades-long Bette's chef Darryl Kimble.
The group intends to eventually run the Oceanview Diner as a worker-owned cooperative, much like another beloved Berkeley food spot, the Cheese Board Collective, Berkeleyside reports. "I think this may be a solution for lots of restaurants, instead of going out of business," Abrams said of the co-op model to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Husband and wife Bette and Manfred Kroening founded Bette's in 1982, helping to anchor the then-new commercial district. Then in 2017, Bette Kroening died at the age of 71. Manfred kept the restaurant going, but finally decided to retire last month.
Manfred Kroening attributed his decision to pandemic stress, challenging new regulations and other issues that caused tremendous staffing difficulties and forced him to work most shifts during the diner's final days under his ownership.
"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," Kroening told Berkeleyside at that time. "Maybe they can scrape off the 'Bette's' and just call it Oceanview Diner."
Kroening shared with the Chronicle that he tried transforming the restaurant to a worker-run co-op in 2020 but that the amount of work eventually deterred some employees, while others retired. But despite the challenges, Bette's fans are rooting for the venture to succeed this time around.
"We’ve had people writing us cards about the fact that the place closed down," financial manager and now co-owner Bishop, who said he'd been going to the diner since he was a teen, told KTVU. "We had people leave candles and flowers the day after we closed."