IHOP to Open in Square

Cambridge License Commision requires normally 24/7 eatery to close at 2 a.m.

The famed International House of Pancakes (IHOP) franchise that typically boasts 24-hour service is slated to grace Harvard Square this summer—but city regulations will keep the late-night diner from serving Square residents all night.

The popular franchise, known for its maple syrup, pancakes, and dinner plates, will be opening a store on Elliot Street in June.

But unlike most IHOP locations, the Cambridge restaurant will close at 2 a.m. The chain had initially applied for a 4 a.m. closing-time license from the Cambridge License Commission but was turned down.

The attorney for the Cambridge franchisee, Vincent J. Panico, said he hopes the diner will be very successful despite shorter hours.

“Harvard square has so much foot traffic in it,” he said.

Robert Banker ’58, who owns the space on 16-18 Eliot St. where the IHOP will be located, was approached by the chain and several other companies six months ago.

“They were one of the few prospective tenants that came to rent the space,” he said. “They were very cooperative and good to work with.”

When he was a Harvard student in the fifties, Banker said he used to eat at a popular breakfast diner, Hays-Bickfords, a chain that no longer exists. To revive these Square breakfast memories, Banker chose to rent the space to IHOP.

But in the present-day Square, the nation-wide chain will stand out among its neighbors of mostly local, family-owned businesses.

“They are aware of the ambience of Harvard Square and they want to try to come in and not offend the sensibilities of the way the Square tries to keep itself,” Panico said. “They know that you just can’t be very flashy.”

For many Cambridge residents, this is precisely the danger of welcoming an IHOP into the Square.

“If there were going to be a 4 a.m. license in Harvard square, it wouldn’t be in IHOP,” the president of the Harvard Square Defense Fund, Ginny Nathans, said.

The defense fund, which is composed of local residents, is concerned with rowdy or drunk people congregating in front of these restaurants late at night, Nathans said.

The defense fund is “a committee of people who live in the area and are concerned with maintaining the integrity of the square,” said Elizabeth Y. Lint, executive officer of the Cambridge License Association.

The defense fund has worked with the licensing commission to prevent the issuance of late-night licenses to businesses such as Felipe’s Taqueria and IHOP, she added.

But students said yesterday that IHOP will be a positive change in the Square.

“I am always glad when businesses are trying to move into Harvard Square because students want places to eat,” said Jeffrey Kwong ’09, the UC liaison to the City of Cambridge. “There is absolutely no place where students can find cheap, hot food at that time at night.”

Texas resident Robin L. Toler ’09, who waitressed at IHOP during her senior year of high school, said that the new IHOP will remind her of her hometown.

“I probably spent more time there than at home,” she said. “It would be kind of nice to have chains and brand names that I have more familiarity with. It would make it more of a home environment.”

Ryan S. Nolan ’09 has traveled with friends to the IHOP at Soldiers Field Road several times this year.

“I love IHOP,” he said. “It will be nice, because I don’t have to travel all the way to Allston. Now I can just walk there.”

—Staff writer Shifra B. Mincer can be reached at smincer@fas.harvard.edu.