The landlord of T.T. the Bear’s Place, the legendary Cambridge rock club, said Friday that the club’s owner plans to cease operations by the end of July.
Another person with direct knowledge of the situation said that T.T.’s will vacate the premises at 10 Brookline St. in Central Square within months. The club’s website has no shows booked beyond July 30.
Joseph Sater, who along with his brother, Nabil, owns the building that houses the venue, said he has nothing in writing and does not want to see the club close. But he said owner Bonney Bouley, who has run T.T.’s since 1983, has made her intentions clear.
“I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but she just doesn’t want to do it anymore,” Sater said. “Hopefully we will find a tenant [to replace] her. It’s up to her. She’s saying she’ll be out by the end of July.”
Bouley did not answer her home phone or respond to a voice-mail message requesting comment. Kevin Patey, the club’s general manager, said that Bouley would be addressing the matter next week.
The closure stems from a dispute between Bouley and the Sater brothers, who own the neighboring Middle East restaurant and entertainment complex on Massachusetts Avenue. The Sater brothers first made their name running the Middle East as a family-owned Lebanese restaurant in the early ’70s and began booking rock concerts in the mid-’80s. Before that, the restaurant had the occasional blues, jazz, and belly-dancing shows. In November, the Saters purchased the building that includes both venues for $7.1 million.
Sater said Bouley does not have a lease and could leave whenever she chooses. He’s unsure of whether he will buy Bouley’s liquor license, a costly asset that would be key to the next tenant.
Sater says that he and his brother have not raised T.T.’s monthly rent, but very well could in order to bridge the extra $14,000 a month they need to pay their mortgage.
“I was going to subsidize her, and I did for a while, and I’m still willing to subsidize her more for a couple of years,” Sater said. “She’s aware of that. She’s still paying the same rent as she was [before].”
Since opening more than 40 years ago, T.T.’s has been famous as a springboard for not only local bands, but touring acts passing through on their way to stardom. The bookings were dotted with bold-face names: The Black Keys, the Strokes, Dresden Dolls, Arcade Fire, Indigo Girls, Jane’s Addiction, Passion Pit, Franz Ferdinand, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Damien Rice, and Uncle Tupelo (before it dissolved and its members went on to form Wilco and Son Volt).
“I mean, it was the spot,” said Randi Millman, who was T.T.’s longest-serving booking agent, from 1996 till 2011. “It was ground zero for that kind of garage-rock sound of Boston. Nationally, it was the first stop here for rising bands. It’s a 300-capacity club, and agents felt comfortable starting bands off in that room if they didn’t have a foothold in Boston yet.”
It’s not entirely clear how well T.T.’s was faring in recent years. After Millman left, to book other places around town (currently Atwood’s Tavern), a variety of outlets, including Bowery Boston, were placing shows in the cozy room. But for some observers, the club lost its identity after Millman’s departure.
Still, she said that as early as a few years ago, the numbers had been good.
“Like any business, especially a small business, you’ll have lean times,” Millman said. “I’m not going to say money was always flowing in, but there were always certain points where you were a little worried. But I think it was pretty healthy when I was there.”
Since rumors of T.T.’s closure surfaced early on Friday on the Boston-based music blog Vanyaland, the local music community has been abuzz with speculation. Chris Ewen, a DJ who hosts a long-running weekly dance night at the club called “Heroes,” said that friends had inquired already about his future there.
“I can’t say anything at the moment,” Ewen said, “but I can say that it’s clear everyone’s watching this closely right now.”
Sater said he is unsure of how the T.T.’s space could be used, but he welcomes the prospect of another venue.
“The more the merrier,” he said. “It’s better for my establishment to have a rock club next to me. I can’t worry about the place being empty. If somebody wants to run T.T.’s and can afford to pay the rent, bring them on.”