BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - Berkeley's so-called 'Gourmet Ghetto' is no more, at least in its name. Following concerns over the connotation of the neighborhood's moniker, the North Shattuck Association, which represents local merchants, has voted to drop the name.
It isn't clear what the replacement name will be, but the neighborhood gained notoriety in the 1960s and '70s when the first Peet's Coffee opened as well as culinary destinations such as Alice Waters' Chez Panisse. Several other restaurants in the business district put Berkeley on the map, solidifying its reputation. Some even call it the birthplace of California cuisine.
It's become more of a nickname with banners hung on streetlights bearing the words 'Gourmet Ghetto' that went up in 2014.
The North Shattuck Association's URL on the internet was even registered as www.gourmetghetto.org, but that website has since been taken down.
In a town, known to be on the cutting edge of political correctness, some are saying the term, "ghetto" has got to go.
"Normally it's a place where life is difficult, l think. There's suffering, sometimes torture. And it's very dark," said Lois Brandwynne.
""It's time to change it. It just feels too enclosed. And it's something, being raised in France and Europe that has a bad connotation," said Ed Kujawski of Berkeley.
"I think if people are feeling uncomfortable with the name, they should be able to voice that and speak up,' said Ashley Saks, also of Berkeley.
Mike Robinson works at Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters. Many of the employees there support the name change. When he moved here from Chicago, a lot of people told him he needed to go to the Gourmet Ghetto, but he wasn't so eager because of the name.
"Again, I grew up in the ghetto and you spend a lot of energy trying to leave a place like that, not to go to another one," Robinson said.
Some merchants do not agree with changing the long-standing moniker.
Waters of Chez Pannise said she's always disliked the name in its entirety.
"Yes, because of the word gourmet, but especially the word ghetto. Anyone who is talking about that now...it feels so discriminatory," Waters told KTVU over the phone on Friday.
Waters said she doesn't like the word 'gourmet' because it makes food sound expensive and inaccessible.
North Shattuck Association released a statement on Friday, which read in part: "With respect to those who feel a strong connection to the spirit of the "gourmet ghetto" name, we support dropping the moniker from our marketing and district identity banners. We hope this will start an organic evolution to a new nickname."
It is not clear when the banners bearing the old nickname will come down.