OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Hog’s Apothecary, a popular restaurant and pub in Oakland, closed its doors Sunday, yet another victim of the Bay Area’s tough business environment.
Hog’s was one of the first “foodie-style” restaurants to open in Oakland’s Temescal District, paving the way for many others to follow. But now that road has come to an end as the restaurant calls it quits.
The idea was just crazy enough to work–turn a corner laundromat in a working class neighborhood into a high-quality restaurant and brew pub. At Hog’s, the beers were local, the prices were reasonable and they didn’t skimp on the food. People ate up the succulent burgers and chicken and waffles there.
“It’s kinda got the comfort food feel, but they really add some unique flair to it,” said David Deeths, a regular Hog’s customer.
And standing on his step stool, like a conductor leading an orchestra, was owner John Streit. He said he wanted Hog’s to be a place where people came together over good food.
“That’s why I did these communal tables. I wanted people from the neighborhood to sit down with each other and…commune,” said Streit.
“This is our corner. They know us, this is our corner. People come here and they know, ‘Oh, they’re here!’” said customer Hillary Safarik.
Safarik and her friend Carol came to the restaurant three to four times a month. But the taste was bittersweet as they ate their last meal at Hog’s on Sunday.
“It’s killing us! We were here yesterday too…it was like our last two days, our last two brunches at Hog’s,” Safarik said.
Streit says he has to close Hog’s because despite a loyal customer base, the economics just don’t pencil out anymore. He says with rising rents, most new restaurants are changing to counter service only, now that the minimum wage has increased by 85% since he opened six years ago.
“That’s a huge impact. And this is why everybody’s shifting to this other concept, because you just can’t make money doing a full-service thing,” Streit said.
Streit says his immediate plans are to sleep for a while and then probably get back into the restaurant business, although he admits it might not be in California. He believes the Bay Area will be left with only expensive sit-down restaurants and those that sell cheaply with only counter-style service.
The fate of Hog’s Apothecary is evidence that, in the restaurant business as in society, the middle class is vanishing. And Streit says the only way that can change will be if the price of real estate can somehow become more reasonable.