Save Top Dog!


Calling all East Bay residents and Cal grads: The Coronavirus has Top Dog on the ropes. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, owners and Cal graduates, Renie & Richard Riemann, Top Dog may not survive the month of April. 

The 54 year old Berkeley institution opened their original location near the Cal campus on Durant avenue in Berkeley back in 1966. The small grab and go grill has been a rite of passage for East Bay residents and Cal students, slinging sausages late night ‘til 3am.

They’re desperately trying to keep their business afloat, and need our immediate help. They’ve already had to temporarily close 3 of their locations, relying only on their Berkeley location to pay the rent for all of their locations. As a fellow East bay restaurant and bar owner,  this is simply unacceptable to me. Through no fault of there own, they find themselves in this situation. Please, we must rally around them as a community so that they can survive this pandemic. 

"We’re trying to stay afloat, but the hardest part is bringing in enough money for rent for all three places and utilities.", Renie, 76, says. Compounding issues is that both Renie and her husband Richard are at risk of Coronavirus infection.

Where were you for your first trip to Top Dog? My first trip was back in 1977 at their southside Berkeley location on Durant. I went when I was 7 years old. We watched Super Bowl XI, between the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings, on a tiny black & white TV. In the ‘70s, I lived in Berkeley, at the corner of California and Ada and was fortunate to have a Top Dog a block away on Hopkins St. My last visit to Top Dog was a couple months back for my 50th birthday. I was with my best friend Peter and we took his two little boys for a brat, introducing year another generation to the deliciousness that is Top Dog.

Per the San Francisco Chronicle...her full attention is on keeping the business alive — not only for her and her husband’s legacy, but for the Top Dog employees in their wills. That’s right: Four Top Dog employees will be bequeathed the Top Dog empire when the owners pass.

"A lot of our staff has been around for a long time — our main manager, Jeremy (Bower), he’s gonna be 60. I think he came on board when he was 18. They’re all in the will," she says. "My husband and I said, 'You know, we have to keep this going, because when we departm we want to leave this to you guys.'"

To that end, Top Dog has asked for some forgiveness from local suppliers that have deferred bills, plus it has partnered with Uber Eats to expand its reach locally ("that’s been helpful," she says), and, less locally, there’s been a slight uptick in mail orders from Old Blues.

"Cal has had so many people come through it; there’s still a nostalgia for us," she says. "We just got an order back East, somebody’s father who was a Cal grad, probably my age, and they remembered he liked Top Dog. It was costly to them, but I can appreciate it. I’d do something like that. And every little bit helps.

"Most businesses like us have a thin profit margin, that’s the scary part. You don’t have a big buildup of back money to ride this out. We’re staying afloat as long as we can.”

It’s just not entirely clear how long that will be.

"We’re struggling along, we’ve got a skeleton crew, we’re just hoping the pandemic won’t last too much longer for peoples’ health first of all, but also so we can all go back to business."

Every dollar raised in this Top Dog’s go fund me campaign will go directly to Top Dog owners, Renie and Richard Riemann.
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Organizer and beneficiary

Jim Telford
Berkeley, CA
Renie Riemann

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