Bow Bows Out As Grendel's Reopens
As beer taps ran dry at the Bow and Arrow Pub Saturday night, Grendel's Den on Winthrop Street was enjoying the end of its first full day of business in more than 14 months.
Operators of both bars said the squeeze of soaring Square rents pressured them to drastically re-think how they do business.
One survived, but the other may be gone forever.
Sunday, the Bow officially closed for a building-wide renovation. A sign on the front door declared, "The Bow has left the building."
The Harvard Cooperative Society, owner of the 1 Bow Street building in which the pub resides, predicts that construction will last until the fall.
The building's management company, IDM Inc., has said the Bow may then move back in, though bar operators insist they can't pay higher rents.
"The rent will be so high it'll cost five to six dollars for a beer, and that's just not worth it," said Bow employee George Cook.
"Right now we have no location, no plans," he said.
Pub employees said they sold beer until the supply ran out around 8 p.m., and then prepared to close for the last time.
"It was a fun place while it was open," Cook said. "People feel they've lost a great place to socialize. The Bow was a great place, but now it's gone."
Grendel's owner, Herbert Keulzer, could only afford to reopen his establishment's basement bar--high rents forced him to relinquish control over his first-floor restaurant, he said.
"Rents have gone up so high, even in the past year," Kuelzer said in an interview.
Kuelzer blamed the flight of local watering holes on the influx of chain businesses like Peet's Coffee and Tea, a California-based chain that recently acquired space next to Grendel's.
With chains increasingly willing and able to pay higher prices for premium Square property, building owners often raise all tenants' rent.
"The changes [in the Square] are awful. Now we have a 24-hour Staples next to us, Abercrombie and all that...stuff," Kuelzer said.
"Now there are less liquor places in Harvard Square and that's bad for all of us, because people won't come here to drink as much," he added. "They're already started going up to Inman, Davis and even Central Square."
But several Grendel's patrons said they were staying put.
Brian Lingham, a regular before the renovations, said he even took off work to see the bar reopen.
"Welcome home!" he said. "The atmosphere hasn't changed at all and that's what people like. Everyone's been saying that things are exactly the same," Kuelzer said.
What has changed was more than cosmetic, however.
Renovations brought the bar into compliance with Cambridge codes, ensuring, for example, that patron tables were available to the disabled.
Workers also installed a new kitchen and built new bathrooms.
According to management, business so far has been better than expected.