A former soul food restaurant and music venue that closed in 2015 after operating for 74 years could soon be demolished and replaced with a new three-story apartment complex under a plan submitted to Oakland’s Planning Commission.
Until 2015, the building at 5817 Shattuck Ave. in the Bushrod neighborhood was home to Dorsey’s Locker, a soul food restaurant and bar that hosted regular blues, jazz and R&B bands in its lounge.
It was founded by Henry and Wilma Dorsey in 1941 as a small soul food restaurant called Mother’s Café, just when new African-American residents were flooding into the Bay Area looking for new industrial jobs.
A plan proposed by new owner Diller Capital would demolish the existing building and replace it with a nine-unit apartment building designed by Larson Shores Architecture and Interiors. The units would range from 796 square feet to 1,579 square feet and the first floor units would each have a private yard.
The café was originally at Seventh and Magnolia streets along the bustling commercial district that existed there before BART and the Seventh Street Post Office were built. But as the business grew, the family moved the restaurant to its Shattuck Ave. location in 1956, added a cocktail lounge and renamed it Dorsey’s Bosn Locker in honor of Henry Dorsey’s Navy service.
The family sold the restaurant in 1986, but Donald Dorsey regained control of it 10 years later. A framed portrait of Henry and Wilma Dorsey hung over the restaurant’s counter until it closed.
Dorsey’s Locker was known for staging regular blues jams and an extensive menu of southern cuisine. In 2011, Congresswoman Barbara Lee presented the Dorsey family with a plaque to commemorate the restaurant’s 70th anniversary.
The Oakland Planning Commission is scheduled to consider whether to approve the construction project today.