After 17 years of burgers, brews, music and community service, Oakland’s popular Luka’s Taproom & Lounge will shut down at month’s end.
The rent is doubling, owner Rick Mitchell said, and his attempts to reach middle ground with the landlord have been unsuccessful.
“I’m as shocked as anybody, honestly. I feel like I made a better offer than he’ll ever see again. But he insisted on immediate increases, no time to recover from Covid,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been running losses for 20 months, so that wasn’t super realistic.
“Ultimately, we decided to get out while we still had money in the bank for severance and other staff support.”
Fans of Luka’s were quick to criticize the rent hike on social media.
“The land will still appreciate and the landlord will make more money not having a tenant. Ugh,” read a Reddit post by NecessaryExercise302. “Bay Area real estate is 100% disconnected from reality. We aren’t a living, breathing city to these people, just an investment vehicle.”
Another person posting made reference to a nearby prominent Uptown vacancy. “Now that spot will be empty for 5 years and counting, like former Ozumo space,” PlantedinCA wrote.
A response from the Luka’s property owners, HP Investors, a commercial real estate investment and development firm, had not yet been received by posting time.
In April 2020, during the early part of the pandemic, Luka’s pivoted to community service when their business plummeted 90% as a result of the region’s shelter-in-place orders, forcing them to furlough 39 of their 45 employees.
Mitchell and his wife/co-owner, Maria Alderete, launched Community Kitchens — a network of restaurants using donated funds to prepare meals for the homeless, while also keeping their staff employed.
“It struck me that for Luka’s and for other restaurants, that by turning ourselves essentially into community kitchens — temporary nonprofits if you will — we could also keep our bills paid, keep current with that, keep our employees paid while we’re getting through the crisis,” Mitchell told the Bay Area News Group at the time.
To date, the participating Community Kitchens restaurants have donated about 120,000 meals.
Staff writer Marisa Kendall contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Come back for updates.