Vernon Gates, restaurateur, painter, poet and 56-year resident of Palo Alto, died Oct. 30 from complications caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 82.
Gates, who opened St. Michael's Alley as a coffeehouse on University Avenue in 1959, was a positive, spirited, happy person who loved the restaurant business, according to his longtime partner, Lynn Robinson.
In its heyday on University, St. Mike's drew the likes of Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick. Gates was quoted in Stanford Magazine a few years ago, saying he installed the first espresso machine south of San Francisco. That, comfy chairs, newspapers from all over the world, open-faced sandwiches and live music attracted a young, artsy crowd.
In 1974, Gates moved the establishment to the corner of Homer Avenue and Emerson Street. In the 1980s he expanded to the annex next door on Homer, turning the corner into a "fancier" restaurant and the annex into a coffee house with live music and a bakery, Robinson said.
Gates ran St. Michael's Alley until 1994, when he sold it and retired.
Born in Washington on May 27, 1929, he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon and a master's degree in communications at Stanford University in 1957.
He is survived by his 30-year partner as well as one daughter, Thalia Gates, who lives in Hawaii.