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Call to Boycott Caffe Med Over Free Speech
Leaves Medheads Speechless

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday December 21, 2010 - 09:12:00 PM

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 Movement. 

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 popular seat. 

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.