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Blue Bottle to open in Varsity Theatre Thursday

Uploaded: Mar 17, 2015
First, it was a theater, then later, a Borders bookstore, and now, a high-tech hub and Blue Bottle Coffee cafe.

The latest incarnation of the Varsity Theatre, built in 1927 on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto, is the brainchild of German software company SAP, which occupies a campus on Hillview Avenue in Palo Alto. The new hub, called HanaHaus, is "a community of purpose defining a new café experience where creative individuals and entrepreneurs can come together to meet, socialize, share ideas and connect with experts," the project website reads.

For those who are most excited about the cafe part (including yours truly), San Francisco coffee-favorite Blue Bottle will be opening its first Peninsula location inside HanaHaus this Thursday, March 19.

Coming soon to a theater near you: HanaHaus and Blue Bottle Cafe.

Third-wave coffee pioneer Blue Bottle got its start in Oakland in 2002 and now operates more than 10 locations in the Bay Area, East Coast and more recently, Tokyo. Blue Bottle still honors a vow made by its founder, James Freeman, when he first opened: ""I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my customers," the company's website reads.

The Palo Alto location will serve baked goods as well as coffee and espresso from a drip bar, a Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine and a mini-keg filled with Blue Bottle's signature New Orleans iced coffee. They're stationed inside the theater on the first floor, which was modified to accommodate the cafe, but there's plenty of outdoor seating as well in an interior courtyard.

"HanaHaus is the perfect location to house the first Blue Bottle Coffee in the heart of Silicon Valley," Freeman said in a press release. "SAP's innovative thought process in creating a space that will foster creativity and collaboration is what Palo Alto is all about, and ultimately what Blue Bottle represents. We couldn't have found a better fit for our first venture on the Peninsula."

HanaHaus is also envisioned as a space for speakers, music, "innovation showcases" and other events. SAP is hosting an invitation-only grand opening Tuesday evening with speakers, a panel on "Creativity, community and the links between the two," and "innovation experiences" ("Make a paper circuit" with The Tech Museum of Innovation, "Next-generation robotics" with the Gunn Robotics Team, "Get into design thinking mode" with Stanford students or "Chat with a remote attendee" from Suitable Technologies). There will, of course, be coffee.

For more on Tuesday's grand opening, check out our news story: SAP launches high-tech cafe at history Palo Alto theater
What is it worth to you?


Posted by friend, a resident of another community,
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Wow! Good luck to this venture! Getting back to the roots!

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Only in Palo Alto could someone come up with such a ridiculous idea and try to turn it into a business. I'll stick with Philz for my coffee and avoid all the other nonsense.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Mar 20, 2015 at 2:39 pm

There was a pleasant restaurant in the lobby/courtyard area for a while in the late 1970s - nice dinner-and-a-movie combination.

It will be interesting to see if this attempt to organize a purposeful, public creative hub will be fruitful. So often such concepts are over-run by poseurs and trendies; the thinkers and makers tend to commune organically. If this does work it could be great!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 20, 2015 at 7:51 pm

I wish the Guild Theater could move into the Varsity Space - it's location is so dysfunctional as it is. Surely too much money, but it should remain a public space, theater, cafe, plaza ... very sorry to see this place out of circulation for so long.

Posted by Christine, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 21, 2015 at 7:06 am

Hasn't Blue Bottle coffee been available at Fraiche Yogurt for quite a while in downtown?

Posted by Captain Howdy, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Mar 21, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Maybe Tuck and Patty will play there again some day. Good times back in the day.

Posted by Religion of coffee, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 21, 2015 at 2:11 pm

I do realize that good coffee has become a religious experience, but I was unable to read the thousands of words about how it is made, I gave up after a few hundred.

Couldn't find anything about the cost of a cup. Maybe everyone is so rich, or on an expense account, no one else cares? I care.

Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Mar 22, 2015 at 8:33 am

@Religion of coffee:

A basic espresso is $3. Most of the other drinks on their menu ranged from $3-4, with the mocha topping out at $5. I paid $3.75 for a cappuccino which is seventy-five cents more than Coupa Cafe on Ramona. I thought it was very tasty. Is it worth the extra $0.75? Well, that's really up for the marketplace to decide collectively (i.e., Blue Bottle stays in business).

That said, if you're going to quibble over 50-75 cents for a coffee at a cafe that has a well established reputation at being a premium cafe, you probably shouldn't be dining out at all.

Find whatever's cheap at Walmart and brew up your own coffee at home.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 22, 2015 at 9:39 am

A Blue Bottle latte at $4.25 was overpriced, and came out luke-warm. The layout of the new building doesn't seem to work. You can't see the coffee menu board until you're at the register, and even a short line, which moved extremely slow, forces you to stand outside. They definitely still have some kinks to work out.

Try Ritual Roasters in San Francisco on Valencia as a better alternative. Their latte for $3.00 has better flavor and comes hot. They haven't disappointed me yet. I always make a stop there on my trips to the City.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Here's an interesting perspective on the evolution of the Varsity Theatre. I'm giving the HanaHaus concept 6 months...

Web Link

Posted by Religion of coffee, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 22, 2015 at 5:31 pm

We stopped in to see what it's about. First impressions - furniture probably good quality but austere, sterile, cold. Atmosphere cold. Nothing like the old Varsity feeling.
Cost of small 2" diameter cookie $2.50.
Cost of a ceramic cone 'pour through' to make a cup of coffee, $20(twenty).

And noise, noise noise. Even though there were not very many people there the artificial noise piped in forces people to shout to be heard, making the ambient noise worse. People who like being in noisy bars will be comfortable. Noise lets you pretend you are surrounded by lots of people having a good time. Maybe like Facebook 'friends'.
A guy inquiring about renting space. Ground floor office anyone?

Posted by sea reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Mar 23, 2015 at 2:46 am

It is a great place!

I was the first customer the other day. I am starting to like coffee now after 58 years of trying it!


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