RALEIGH -- There's good news and bad news about the Berkeley Cafe. The good news is that the downtown club and restaurant at 217 W. Martin St. is staying open. But the bad news is that it's losing the big 200-capacity music room.
That space will close June 30 and be converted to a retail store called Island Tobacco, according to landlord York Properties. The Berkeley will be down to the smaller adjoining cafe space. It will continue to have live music, but on a smaller scale with a capacity closer to 100.
"We hate downsizing," owner John Blomquist said on Monday. "It's not the end of an era, but it is the end of the big side and we'll miss it. It's gonna be a transition."
Blomquist opened the Berkeley in 1980, expanding its live-music operation into the big hall in the early 1990s. The Berkeley has hosted everything from country singers to hip-hop and metal over the past two decades, including some of the local scene's biggest names -- Chatham County Line and Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown among them.
"I've always liked the Berkeley, the funkiness of it," said Marianne Taylor, one of several outside promoters who booked concerts there.
For a number of years, the big music hall also included a storefront space on Martin Street, which housed a series of businesses including a coffee shop and convenience store. The last one, Taz's, moved out in late 2010. After the Berkeley's lease on the music-hall space expired last November, York began shopping the property to potential tenants.
"York told us they were exercising their out and it was pretty short, less than 30 days," said Jim Shires, managing partner who oversees the Berkeley's live music. "We asked for another month to fulfill some obligations to bands and customers, and they agreed to give us until June 30. So there are no hard feelings. We've always known this was a possibility."
So goes another downtown club, but at least the Berkeley Cafe will remain. Blomquist's lease runs until 2023, and he promised he's not going anywhere.
"A man needs a place to go and I want to continue coming here," Blomquist said. "I love my customers."