- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—BERKELEY — Last week’s sudden closure of the municipal pier because of structural damage has had immediate effects on some waterfront businesspeople.

Things were too quiet at waterfront store Berkeley Marina Sport Fishing Center Bait & Tackle on Monday.

“I was sitting outside the whole day, waiting for someone to come,” owner Abdul Quasemi said shortly after 1 p.m. Moments later, a party of four came into the store but left without buying anything.

Quasemi predicted that business would pick up from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. when there is party boat traffic, but that would carry him only so far.

“The pier is half of my business,” he said.

The city closed the pier to the public Wednesday after follow-up communications with a consultant that had found structural damage to its concrete deck and supports while checking the structure in advance of the recent Fourth of July festivities.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said Monday the city does not yet have an estimate of the cost or timeline of possible repairs. He said the city also is looking into which regional, state or other regulatory agencies might become involved, depending on what would need to be done to restore the pier.

Rouaf Yehya, who has been selling hot dogs and other snacks near the head of the pier for eight or nine years, said Monday that business was down to a trickle even during last weekend’s kite festival that brought large crowds to nearby Cesar Chavez Park.

“I’m thinking maybe I find another location,” Yehya said somewhat forlornly.

Kevin Kechely, a Berkeley native who was fishing for white croaker from the shoreline rocks near the pier Monday, said he is hopeful that the structural damage is not extensive and that the city will try to restore it to a safe condition promptly. Not to do so would be “a travesty,” he said.

“This is a piece of Berkeley history,” Kechely said. “This is an icon.”

He cited restaurants Skates and HMS Lordship, as well as the bait shop, as examples of businesses that benefit from the pier’s proximity.

“Think of the revenue Berkeley gets from the pier,” Kechely said. “Look at what it does for Berkeley. I can’t imagine the Berkeley Marina without the pier.”

Another longtime angler, Rafael Del Rosario of Oakland, was less optimistic. He remembered fishing off the pier about a week-and-a-half earlier and hearing what he surmised was a chunk of concrete falling from the pier into the water.

He said a person who he believes is a city worker told him the pier likely will be closed “for a long time,” and he questioned why it ever got to that point.

“Berkeley’s got the money but they don’t want to bother with it (the pier),” Del Rosario said. “This used to be the number one sight-see. Now, no more. They just don’t care.”

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.

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(c)2015 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.)

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