"We were looking forward to a long and lasting relationship with the Oriental," confirms Karen Underwood, president of United Berkeley Neighbors. "It was a potential economic boost to that corner, and it has so much history. We feel a real sense of loss." Owens, too, is disappointed, but she says she's confident her espresso cafe will be able to survive. "And we're hoping that the Oriental will reopen as a theater again soon."
There's no guarantee of that. Sager denies rumors that he's going to turn the Oriental into a furniture store, but he won't promise to lease the building only to someone who wishes to use it as a theater. Neither has he pursued placement of the Oriental on local or national historic registries that would restrict its use. He says he wants to see the Oriental succeed as a theater but concedes that he's allowed the Federal Theatre to be used as what he calls "a carpet display area."
"I'd hate to see that happen to the Oriental," Amos says. "It's a fantastic old building that should be preserved. I hope someone decides to pick up the ball and do what needs to be done.