Tasty Fans Mourn Eve of Diner's Closing

* After Almost 80 Years, Eatery Must Close on Oct. 31

Time is running out for the Tasty, a Harvard Square institution since 1916.

"Things look like sometime at the end of October the bank will be starting restoration of the building, which means we'll be closing the Tasty," said owner Peter Haddad in an interview last week.

This July, Cambridge Savings Bank, which owns the historic Read Block property which houses the Tasty, told all remaining tenants they would have to move out by October 31.

According to Nelson Goddard, the bank's senior vice president for administration, selective demolition will begin on November 1.

In addition to the Tasty, the property includes the building which housed the Wursthaus, the office of optometrist Dr. Richard Glugeth and numerous other offices upstairs from the Tasty.

Goddard said last week that the Tasty is the only tenant that might return to the building.

While negotiations continue between the Tasty and the bank about the possibility of the eatery returning to Read Block in 1999, Haddad said he is also searching the Square for a new location "be it temporary or full time depending on how things go with the bank." He said he has found few vacancies.

"The likelihood [of finding another location in the Square] doesn't look good. We may have to get creative," he said.

When Read Block reopens, the bank will use the third floor for its own offices and will lease the lower two floors to retail stores.

The renovation plan, recently approved by the Cambridge Historical Commission after three years of haggling, will leave the building entirely vacant until the summer or fall of 1999, Goddard said.

The plan calls for the renovation of the two side buildings and the preservation of the central building's facade.

Although the move-out date for the Tasty is firm, discussions do not need to be finalized by October 31 because they deal with issues of future tenancy, Goddard said.

Haddad, who in July voiced fears that the bank wished to exclude him from the new building, was more reserved last week though he cited continuing concerns about possible rent increases and lease conditions in the new property.

"I'm hopeful that the bank will live up to their comments during the permitting process and that the Tasty will be able to remain in Harvard Square, in or close to its current location," he said.

Bob Martin, who works the night shift at the Tasty, said he was more discouraged by the diner's prospects. He said he wondered if the Tasty's fight against the bank to preserve the building created enmity between the two businesses.

"They wanted their five story brick building out there," he said. "They're upset that they didn't get it."

But the Tasty may not go quietly. City Councilor Francis H. Duehay '55, who has been an outspoken Tasty advocate in recent months, said that while there is no official recourse to keep a place for the Square's only 24-hour eatery, there is always public pressure.

According to Duehay, the city council might hold a public hearing on the Tasty before the October move-out date.

For the time being, the beginning of the end has Martin waxing nostalgic.

"We're looking for a spot, but this is the spot here," he said. "Before the subway, trolleys used to turn around right here. One left every eight minutes or so, so people would always drop in for a hot dog."

And in an area which prides itself on history, the Tasty can claim its own proud past.

"In the blizzard of '78, we were the only thing open for two or three days. We had police going down to the supermarket getting supplies for us," Martin said.

It's that history-and its iminent end-that has long-time patrons upset.

"This is awful, it's terrible," said Phil R. Ligor, an Arlington resident who said he has been coming to the Tasty for 40 years. "A lot of people are gonna be lost."