People's Cafe

The Berkeley Catholic Worker opens a “People’s Cafe” in 1989.

Diners outside a building with
Berkeley Voice photo

People’s Cafe

When police seized the People’s Park Kitchen in 2024, it had echoes of something that happened in 1989.

That May, volunteers with the Berkeley Catholic Worker started serving breakfast out of a “People’s Cafe” that had appeared overnight in the park.

Letterhead with typewritten press release
A 1989 Berkeley Catholic Worker release announcing the cafe.
Article scan: What will happen to People's Cafe?
San Francisco Examiner, December 15, 1989

Within days, the university filed suit against the Catholic Worker to force its removal. As one possible “concession,” they offered a site over 6 miles away.

After negotiation, the Catholic Worker agreed to move the trailer to a site on Dwight Way. But then, the university declared there would be a curfew on the site after 5pm - a non-starter for the Catholic Worker, who wanted free congregation at all hours of the day.

The saga over the People’s Cafe, along with a push to sweep homeless people, poor and counter-cultural youths off Telegraph Avenue, led to renewed efforts to protect the park’s autonomy and keep Telegraph a “free” space.

Park co-founder Michael Delacour and activist Robert Sparks were jailed on charges of inciting a riot in 1989.