Z Square Café Shuts Its Doors

License issues force closing after financial difficulties stymie restaurant

License violations forced popular restaurant and café Z Square Cambridge to close earlier this month, and due to financial difficulties, new ownership will not reopen the location, a consultant for the restaurant said yesterday.

New management, brought in last October after investors ousted former owner David A. Zebny '84, plan to eventually close all four entities owned by the Z Restaurant Group—which has two other locations in Massachusetts and one in California—having deemed it no longer profitable, said Lynne A. Taylor, an independent consultant for the company.

According to Taylor, the Harvard Square restaurant "was hanging by a thread," with its sales unable to sustain its operating expenses, particularly in the face of an economic downturn.

She said that investors felt that Zebny "badly mismanaged" the businesses.

"Everybody who had invested in them did not feel confident in his management ability," she said.

Zebny could not be reached for comment yesterday.

While the new management was in the midst of taking care of the closure and liquidation of the restaurant in Cambridge, the eatery was suddenly forced to shut on Jan. 12 due to licensing problems.

In a statement issued last week, the Cambridge License Commission faulted Z Square for "failure to apply for change of manager, failure to have a current worker's compensation insurance, a noise complaint within the six-month probationary period on their entertainment license, and unpaid police detail."

The restaurant is scheduled for a hearing to resolve these issues on Feb. 10. But Taylor said that the restaurant will not return to the JFK storefront, no matter how the hearing goes. Future use of the space will depend on Cambridge Savings Bank, which owns the location.

Z Square, which opened in Cambridge in Oct. 2006, has no signs on its locked doors explaining its fate. According to neighboring restaurant workers, prospective customers have still been knocking on the locked doors, to no avail.

Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said she was "sad about this turn of events" when she saw the restaurant had closed, but remained hopeful for the business to survive in Cambridge. "We're keeping our fingers crossed because the location's great and the restaurant spent a lot of time and money with the space."

Jillson described former owner Zebny as "active and generous" and said he had had a "wonderful relationship" with the HSBA.

She also said that this was not an indicator of more general Square business turnover.

"Businesses come and businesses go," she said. "We're not seeing any more or any less than we normally do."

—Staff writer Vidya Viswanathan can be reached at viswanat@fas.harvard.edu.