By Ted Friedman
Tuesday December 21, 2010
A recent incident at the notorious Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph
has led to calls for a boycott of the home of the Sixties Free Speech
It's a bizarre twist on history, but one of the complaints is
interference with "free speech." Medheads will be left speechless.
"The Med needs to get the message," the call to boycott begins," that
there will not be classism in the cafes on Telegraph Ave. Cafes are a
site of gathering and free speech." This in a coffee house scene
where Nobel Laureates mix with hobos.
The article appears as "Boycott Caffe Med," at the indybay website, Dec. 20.
The charges gain momentum, blaming the Med's owner, Craig Becker, 59,
with violent acts against the homeless.
As the Indybay posting reveals, the origin of the complaints stem
from an incident in which three long time customers were asked to
move from the Dustin Hoffman table, a window seat where Hoffman sat
for the 1969 film, "the Graduate."
The famed seat has its own troubled history. Over the years this
hotly contested piece
of historic real estate has spawned a few boycotts of its own,
usually when someone or other storms out because they can't get the
That was the situation when the embittered Hoffman table squatters
were asked to leave by Becker, as witnessed by this reporter.
Becker, interviewed later, said that he'd simply asked them to take
another table, after pointing out that when the place fills up,
tables and chairs are at a premium. They took another table, nearby.
The Hoffman seat brouhaha is overshadowed by the charge that Becker
and staff hose down the outside walk at night, thereby intimidating
the homeless, denying their rights, and often splashing passersby.
The hosings, according to Becker are to thin out recurring crowds
blocking the Med's door and sidewalk at sunset. The popular outside
tables have been retired for the winter because of street violence.
Other avenue businesses are considering the hose for their own crowd control.
Becker is further alleged--at the Indybay site--to have knocked down
a man who came in to complain about being splashed. The man wound up
on the floor with his ankles duck taped before the Berkeley Police
arrived to sort it all out.
Becker reported that the man had hit him; the man was arrested. The
Indybay post says Becker lied about being hit, but several sources
confirm his injuries.
The latest controversy comes after a recent till-tap in which a Med
employee suffered a painful black eye, and headaches after being
punched by the thief who reached into the cash register and made off
with several hundred dollars.
In a half century at the center of Berkeley turmoil, the Med has been
tear-gassed, shot into, and had its doors rammed by police vehicles,
but has always managed to win the hearts and minds of the motley
South Side crowd it serves.
This is not the first time the Med has faced a boycott. Nearly a
dozen regulars boycotted the Med after Berkeley passed its first
smoking ban in restaurants, bars and coffee houses in 1986.
Chances are good that the Med will survive Indy bay's final shot:
"The Med tries to make a buck off of a phony counter-culture
atmosphere, while at the same time battling against the real
Telegraph street counter-culture that exists."
Remember the boycotting smokers? They have not returned since '86.
Can the neo-boycotters match that?
Ted Friedman has been a Medhead for 45 years.