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Students Need 24-Hour Options


Harvard Square is the center of the quintessential college town. Tens of thousands of students daily crowd its streets, all looking for places to have fun and, most importantly, to eat. Yet for all those forlorn souls looking for food at 3 a.m., there are no options but The Tasty, which although venerable, does not suit every appetite. We were therefore dismayed to hear last week that C'est Bon, a sandwich and salad restaurant at 110 Mt. Auburn St., had withdrawn its application for a 24-hour permit. While the Tasty's burgers and eggs can be tasty, C'est Bon reduces the grease factor for late-night eaters, offering Au Bon Pain-esque sandwiches and scones.

C'est Bon's owner, George Sarkis, said before he withdrew the proposal that there was a lot of "neighborhood opposition" to it; three days later, however, after he backed out, he said that it was not neighborhood opposition but a "business decision" because he did not believe in the "24-hour concept." In this confusing series of statements, we see one key player looming large: the Harvard Square Defense Fund. No, it's not a group that totes around guns to keep Harvard Square safe, although it might as well do so; it's a neighborhood organization that will do anything to keep Harvard Square from being student-friendly (i.e., keep fast-food restaurants from entering the Square's sacred gates). In the past, it has adamantly barred McDonald's from the Square, all the while allowing in Bertucci's, Pizzeria Uno, California Pizza Kitchen, the Gap, HMV, Tower Records...the list goes on. The Fund's contradictions are multitudinous.

Its rationale against allowing the Tasty and not C'est Bon to stay open 24 hours is that police officers regularly patrol the central location around the Tasty. Defense Fund President Pebble M. Gifford said the Harvard Square Hotel, which abuts C'est Bon, is "up against a residential area." We're not sure exactly what residential area she means, since Kinko's and Chili's are further down Mt. Auburn St. than C'est Bon--and Kinko's itself is open 24 hours. We don't see how a mild-mannered cafe such as C'est Bon could possibly disturb residents more than the brightly-lit, all-night Kinko's already has. However, perhaps the C'est Bon next to be Store 24 on Massachussetts Avenue would be a better choice if this was an issue.

As Sarkis said before the proposal's withdrawal, "It would be great for the [Harvard Square Hotel], and even better for the students. A lot of students go to Kinko's at night, because they are open all night. They could come across the street and have a cup of coffee or sandwich while they are waiting." We couldn't agree more.

We urge the Harvard Square Defense Fund to step into reality and allow C'est Bon to go 24 hours. If Harvard Square were filled with one-of-a-kind small businesses, that would be one thing. But when it looks like a smaller, outdoor version of the CambridgeSide Galleria mall, we see no reason why it should not allow more 24-hour stores. Gifford said that in the 1960s and '70s, "there were a lot of 24-hour places and they were a nightmare." Maybe that was because she and the other members of the Defense Fund were having bad dreams in their "residential areas." After all, they're not the ones who have to stay up all night, hungry, writing papers or copying materials at Kinko's. The students do. And the students should have more options than the Tasty when it's three o'clock in the morning.

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