Bar Owner Peter Van Kleef, an Uptown Oakland Pioneer, Dies at Age 65


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Sad news for patrons of the Uptown Oakland watering hole Cafe Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave.): Peter Van Kleef, the bar’s eponymous owner, died yesterday at the age of 65, the Bay Area News Group reports. The cause of death was liver and kidney failure.

Van Kleef, who opened the bar in 2003, was the “godfather of the Uptown Oakland renaissance,” one regular customer told BANG. As former Express bar columnist Ellen Cushing put it, in a loving tribute written in 2013, “Van Kleef pre-dated Art Murmur and Occupy and ironic taxidermy; if, in 2003, its drinks — made with genuine care and fresh fruit, hand-squeezed on the spot — were unfathomably forward-thinking, now they're standard.”

Since its inception, Cafe Van Kleef has been known for its stiff drinks and the eclectic artifacts that line its walls — but, perhaps even more than that, for its gregarious Dutch-born owner, who befriended countless Greyhound drinkers over the years. He was, in the words of an Express review of the bar published just a few months after it opened, “very animated and in love with life, entreating any poor sucker who walks by to come in and hang out.”

According to BANG, a memorial outside the bar is tentatively scheduled for this Saturday, September 12.