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Alice Waters, at right, owner and executive chef of world famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, finishes a tour of her fire damaged restaurant on March 8, 2013. At left is Berkeley's acting deputy fire chief, Avery Webb.

BERKELEY -- Chez Panisse, one of the world's famous foodie meccas, will be closed indefinitely following a March 8 fire and is not taking any new reservations, according to a post by owner Alice Waters on its website.

Following the fire, which started in the early morning under the front porch of the Shattuck Avenue eatery, the restaurant said it probably would reopen March 23, then it moved it back to March 30.

Turns out those dates were overly optimistic.

"We are calling everyone personally to cancel all existing reservations, and we will post new updates as we receive additional information about the progress of the reconstruction," Waters said on the website at www.chezpanisse.com.

As builders began doing demolition work, they realized that both the top and bottom porches of the building will have to be removed and rebuilt.

"In addition to the significant damage to the lower room, much of the damage was structural and the upper porch sits on the lower one," said General Manager Jennifer Sherman. "The new design takes into account the fact that both had to come down."

Sherman said the restaurant has business interruption insurance "so we will be stable for the duration of the rebuild."

Kip Mesirow, who designed the original building and who has worked for Waters since 1971, will oversee the redesign of a "team of talented wood workers," Waters' post said.


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In addition to rebuilding both the upper and lower porches, Mesirow will redesign the facade of the building, all in wood.

Waters said in her note that the staff is "cleaning and repainting every inch" of the restaurant.

Berkeley fire spokesman Avery Webb said the fire probably started when some electrical equipment under the front porch of the restaurant malfunctioned. His original damage estimate was about $200,000, but Sherman said it will be higher.

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.