In mid-May, the Berkeley community was devastated by the closing from another beloved local landmark, Shattuck Cinemas. This, unfortunately, is not an isolated incident.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in turnover for local businesses downtown and on Telegraph Avenue due to fewer customers and subsequent difficulties in paying bills. Theatres, bookstores, cafes and other small businesses went bankrupt due to lack of activity; others have been taken over by larger corporations, often to carry out housing development plans. As increasingly longtime favorites – including Brewed awakening coffee, University press books and California Theater — disappear, local Berkeley culture disappears with them.
However, the select few who struggled but successfully fought to stay afloat or be restored continue to prove their worth to the Berkeley community and culture. After more than two years of closure, Ashkenazithe Community Music and Dance Center, for example, is set to reopen on June 5, revitalizing the dance traditions that people have traveled to Berkeley for nearly five decades.
As a united front, the Berkeley community and local government must work together to prevent further deterioration of our still rich local culture by preserving local businesses. There are two main ways to achieve this goal: public support and financial support.
For Berkeley residents and UC Berkeley students, just making the conscious effort to visit these local businesses can save those facing impending bankruptcy. It is well established that the livelihoods of these businesses are largely dependent on students, even though many of us do not realize the impact our collective dollars can have.
On the other hand, the Berkeley government must play its part by providing the necessary grants and other forms of financial support. While there is already programs such as the Small Business Administration Loans and the Paycheck Protection Program put in place to provide relief in light of the pandemic, greater resources should be allocated to sites that are an integral part of our community.
If even a fraction of the $4.4 million budget currently allocated to police overtime can be redirected to small businesses, it could make a big difference because without these benchmarks, the city of Berkeley will lose much of the charm. which makes it the renowned cultural city that it is.
Only with all members of the Berkeley community – government officials, residents and students – actively working towards this goal can we save these beloved iconic businesses. After already losing so many people to the pandemic, we cannot afford to sit back and watch more disappear from our city. So text your friends, grab your family, enjoy Berkeley’s wonderful culture, and help save it in the process.
The editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by Summer 2022 Opinion Writer Manya Zhao.