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CHRISTOPHER MUTHER

A Cambridge hotel bravely debuts in an uncertain market

907 Main opens its doors as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the hospitality industry

A bay window inside the newly opened 907 Main hotel in Cambridge.
A bay window inside the newly opened 907 Main hotel in Cambridge.

On a bitterly cold and snowy day last December, the team behind 907 Main, Central Square’s first boutique hotel, proudly showed off the progress of the space to a reporter, pointing out how the site, originally constructed in 1871, had been stripped to the studs and was being lovingly restored into a posh and fanciful hotel, restaurant, and bar with just enough rowdy edges to acknowledge the neighborhood’s gritty past.

With progress coming along swiftly, an opening was set for May. Then that momentum came to a halt as Governor Charlie Baker put a moratorium on construction in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. As the tourism industry takes a beating from the virus — hotel occupancy rates are down as much as 70 percent in the Boston area — it would seem logical to put the opening of 907 Main on ice. Instead, the hotel, along with the restaurant, called The Dial Kitchen, opened in September. The rooftop bar, called Blue Owl, will open next year. We talked to Kathryn Vallier, general manager of the hotel, about opening in a pandemic.

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Q. What stage were you at when the state put a moratorium on construction?

A. We were chugging along at a decent pace. We were on track to open in May. On any given day we had between 30 to 50 people in here working. When the guidelines were lifted slightly, we were allowed only 10 bodies in the building at any given time for construction. So we went from having dozens of different tradespeople in the building to 10 people at a time. That obviously slowed things down for us significantly. We focused on having the tradespeople here to finish the rooms first before we started bringing in and training staff.

Q. What were some of the changes that needed to be made from the initial design to adapt to the pandemic?

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A. From the lobby, we didn’t necessarily change any of the design. We only added to it. We added plexiglass barriers at the front desk and set up hand sanitizing stations. One thing that has absolutely changed is that every hour, on the hour, we are disinfecting all of the high-touch points. So the front door entrance, the key card readers, the elevator buttons, the front desk, credit card readers, anything that’s regularly touched gets sanitized often. We also have an electrostatic sprayer, so that allows us to cover a lot of ground and a lot of surface area while still disinfecting.

A guest room at 907 Main, Central Square' s first boutique hotel.
A guest room at 907 Main, Central Square' s first boutique hotel.

Q. And how about guest rooms?

A. We removed a lot of the dry-clean-only items, such as decorative throw pillows on our beds and side chairs. We removed the bed scarf as well. We want to make sure our guests feel comfortable without a doubt that everything has been put in fresh. We also removed any additional soft amenities. So our guest robes and slippers, for example, are still available. We don’t keep them in the room. When our guests book, we’re letting them know we can deliver them per their request upon arrival.

Everything is being disinfected the proper way. The first thing that we train our associates and leaders on is COVID-19 protocols and procedures and how to keep themselves safe, and also our guests.

The Dial Kitchen inside 907 Main in Cambridge.
The Dial Kitchen inside 907 Main in Cambridge.Brian Samuels Photography

Q. What have occupancy rates been so far? I’m guessing it’s not easy at the moment.

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A. Everything’s totally reversed. We expected that weekends would be quieter, and that weekdays would be busier with all of the pharmaceutical and corporate business. We have some leisure guests trickling in during the week, but it’s really the weekends that have been busiest. A lot of the business is local, from people looking to get out of their house for a couple of days and take a staycation. At this point a lot of folks want a change of scenery, even if it’s a small one.

Interview was edited and condensed. Rates at 907 Main range from $159 to $279 per night. 907 Main St., Cambridge, 907main.com. 617-354-9907


Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.