Berkeley cafe featured on ‘Today’ show to close after 45 years

Berkeley cafe featured on ‘Today’ show to close after 45 years


A cook works behind the line at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, which is closing on Jan. 1, 2024.

A cook works behind the line at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, which is closing on Jan. 1, 2024.

Jessie R. via Yelp/Courtesy

A Berkeley cafe that became a national news story for its free breakfast tickets is closing after 45 years. Homemade Cafe, which opened in 1979 at the corner of Sacramento St. and Dwight Way, will serve its last breakfast on Jan. 1. 

“It is with great sadness and disappointment that we have to close. It is just financially impossible to stay open,” the cafe wrote on its Facebook page. “In today’s economics, running a small, locally owned, full service restaurant that serves Homemade food out of quality ingredients, at relatively reasonable and affordable prices, while valuing its employees and refusing to pay less than a living wage is apparently not possible.”

Collin Doran bought the cafe in 2011 and introduced his “everybody eats” free breakfast for people who could not afford to pay for a meal. Customers who donate $5 get a “free food” ticket posted to a bulletin board, which gives two eggs any way, potatoes, toast and coffee to a hungry walk-in. The policy became national news, earning the cafe features on the “Today” show and the Washington Post.

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“On days when we run out of tickets, we keep serving free meals anyway,” Doran told the Post. “Nobody should go hungry. This is the right thing to do.”

But even national acclaim was not enough to save the diner. A GoFundMe to help Homemade Cafe said Doran “invested over 200,000 dollars of his savings over the last two years to stay operational,” and when faced with closure, employees “unambiguously volunteered to take a 20% pay cut.” 

“We’ve survived a lot and are strong but these last few months have not been kind, with expenses for everything constantly rising every month by 5%-10%,” the GoFundMe reads.

On Friday, Doran announced on Facebook that Homemade Cafe is closing permanently in the new year.

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“Monday will be our last day to serve you breakfast all day, with no reservations, our last time to make and serve all the delicious soul satisfying meals in our repertoire with all the love and care we can muster,” the post reads. “We will no longer get to welcome you in as if you were a loving family member, but you will always be in our hearts and we have memories to cherish for a lifetime.”

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