Berkeley’s UC Theatre Gets OK

A zoning modification for Berkeley, Calif.’s UC Theatre was unanimously approved by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board after a public hearing Aug. 13.

The OK means applicants Dawn Holliday of Slim’s and former Bill Graham Presents exec Dave Mayeri can move forward with plans to restore the shuttered movie palace as a concert hall.

The building, which lies in the heart of Berkeley’s growing downtown cultural arts district, had been approved as a jazz club. But when Mayeri and Holliday decided to partner on the venture, they envisioned the 1920s-era building as a concert hall similar to Slim’s and the Great American Music Hall across the bay in San Francisco.

Mayeri is a former chief operating officer for BGP with extensive Bay Area experience operating all-ages music venues. Holliday manages Slim’s and books the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival at Golden Gate Park.

“When I first saw the building with the owners, I thought it was a very interesting space,” Mayeri told the Berkeley Daily Planet after winning the modification. “The first person I went to was Dawn, and she loved the building. Things just moved on after that.”

He told the paper he and Holliday would start a new Berkeley-based company, called Berkeley Music Group LLC, to manage the UC Theatre – which will keep its name.

“It’s a great place for the public to assemble,” Mayeri told the paper. “I think there’s a big need for a concert venue of this size in Berkeley. We see the UC Theatre filling a niche in the East Bay similar to the Fillmore in San Francisco. You can expect bands that play at the Fillmore or the Great American Music Hall.”

Not that Berkeley lacks for live entertainment. The folk-friendly, 440-seat Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse is in the middle of its grand re-opening in a new downtown home, and nearby are venues ranging from Anna’s Jazz Café to the University of California’s Zellerbach Hall and Greek Theatre.

Mayeri said he hoped to be able to open the renovated UC Theatre in fall 2010.