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The Tasty Closes, But May Move

By Jennifer . Lee, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

It was a cramped night of grease, nostalgia and souvenir photography at the Tasty at 2 JFK Street. Stools were hard to come by and standing room was sparse at the tiny restaurant. Onlookers spilled out into the sidewalk.

The Sunday 6 a.m. closing of the tiny 81-year-old eatery brought in a strong and steady stream of customers and media eager to take part in and record the emotional struggle of mom-and-pop shops against big business.

But single-digit a.m. study breaks with double cheeseburgers and greasy french fires may not yet be extinct in Harvard Square.

The Tasty is in discussions to reincarnate itself--perhaps as soon as tonight--by sharing space with another restaurant, Leo's Place, across the street at 35 JFK St. next to CVS.

"We don't have a lot of details yet," said co-owner Stephanie Avis Haddad, whose father sold the Tasty to her and her husband Peter seven years ago. "We're anticipating moving to 35 JFK St., but we're not completely cast in stone at this point."

If the negotiations with Leo's Place were to go through, the combined restaurant would be open 24 hours a day. Leo's management would run the operation between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Tasty employees would take over for the remaining 12 hours of the day.

The Tasty is Harvard Square's oldest surviving restaurant, with its original floor tiles laid out in 1916 and its serving counter dating from the 50s. Both will be gone by this morning. The store will be completely stripped to its four walls and its contents put into storage--including the counter, dishwasher and pay phone.

Customers offering to buy restaurant memorbilia yesterday morning were rebuffed. "We're keeping it all because we want to come back," said the counter attendant.

"Where?"

"Here."

Perhaps so. Public pressure continues to mount against Cambridge Savings Bank, the Tasty's landlord, to let the Tasty return to its historic location following the upscale renovation of the property.

A public hearing discussing the eatery's future has been scheduled for Monday, November 17 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Despite the continuing and ambiguous struggle for the Tasty's survival, the night still had a makings of a sentimental media spectacle.

At 3:30 a.m. a live radio interview with Tasty employees resulted in a wave of customers eager to witness the symbolic night.

One customer paid a photographer $20 to take a souvenir photo of him and his wife with their BMW in front of the Tasty.

At 5:30 a.m. the last grill order was served: hot dogs and french fries to a handful of hungry students. Only one steaming pot of coffee survived to serve those working the early morning shifts in Harvard Square.

After the termination of the grill, the scrubbing and packing began. The employees threw cocoa, Campbell's chili con carne and ketchup into boxes with the haphazardness of the post-finals storage process.

A round of Tasty souvenir T-shirt sales started at 5:45 a.m. with the last-minute arrival of students.

"It's a legend. It's a tradition. We had to show our respects to the Tasty," said David Amerikaner '01, who set his alarm clock for 4:45 a.m. to he could come to the Tasty.

At 6 a.m. the last cup of coffee at 2 JFK St. was served to a true Tasty diehard. Bob Richards, a Cambridge resident who has been going to the Tasty since he was a high school student in 1951, had the honor of imbibing the last mug of coffee.

"It's sad to see an institution like this go. I've been coming to the Tasty for half the years it's been open," he said.

At 6:05 there was an effort to humor an impatient local television news camera operator. The counter staff simulated the Tasty closing for film by shutting off the bright neon sign and locking the door.

However, they met with one stumbling block.

"There's no key. That's why we're open 24 hours," quipped Tasty employee Bob Martin.

As Harvard Square was waking up to a grey sky on a sleepy Sunday morning, the Tasty slowly wound down.

After a final breakfast featuring cheese omlettes with Tasty employees, the owners and their friends, the restaurant equipment was hauled away in a truck in the early afternoon. White signs were plastered on the windows announcing their temporary roosting place at 35 JFK St.

Even after the doors were locked, the Tasty was still the object of curiosity. Throughout the day, passersby stood on wooden boxes to peer over the white signs into the Tasty's empty shell.

"The faucet is still running," one woman remarked.

The sign in the Tasty window shares the restaurant's proud 81-year legacy: "29,565CrimsonMelissa K. CrockerCLEANING UP AND CLOSING DOWN: BOB MARTIN cleans the deep-fat frier early Sunday morning as the Tasty prepared to shut its doors.

The Tasty is Harvard Square's oldest surviving restaurant, with its original floor tiles laid out in 1916 and its serving counter dating from the 50s. Both will be gone by this morning. The store will be completely stripped to its four walls and its contents put into storage--including the counter, dishwasher and pay phone.

Customers offering to buy restaurant memorbilia yesterday morning were rebuffed. "We're keeping it all because we want to come back," said the counter attendant.

"Where?"

"Here."

Perhaps so. Public pressure continues to mount against Cambridge Savings Bank, the Tasty's landlord, to let the Tasty return to its historic location following the upscale renovation of the property.

A public hearing discussing the eatery's future has been scheduled for Monday, November 17 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Despite the continuing and ambiguous struggle for the Tasty's survival, the night still had a makings of a sentimental media spectacle.

At 3:30 a.m. a live radio interview with Tasty employees resulted in a wave of customers eager to witness the symbolic night.

One customer paid a photographer $20 to take a souvenir photo of him and his wife with their BMW in front of the Tasty.

At 5:30 a.m. the last grill order was served: hot dogs and french fries to a handful of hungry students. Only one steaming pot of coffee survived to serve those working the early morning shifts in Harvard Square.

After the termination of the grill, the scrubbing and packing began. The employees threw cocoa, Campbell's chili con carne and ketchup into boxes with the haphazardness of the post-finals storage process.

A round of Tasty souvenir T-shirt sales started at 5:45 a.m. with the last-minute arrival of students.

"It's a legend. It's a tradition. We had to show our respects to the Tasty," said David Amerikaner '01, who set his alarm clock for 4:45 a.m. to he could come to the Tasty.

At 6 a.m. the last cup of coffee at 2 JFK St. was served to a true Tasty diehard. Bob Richards, a Cambridge resident who has been going to the Tasty since he was a high school student in 1951, had the honor of imbibing the last mug of coffee.

"It's sad to see an institution like this go. I've been coming to the Tasty for half the years it's been open," he said.

At 6:05 there was an effort to humor an impatient local television news camera operator. The counter staff simulated the Tasty closing for film by shutting off the bright neon sign and locking the door.

However, they met with one stumbling block.

"There's no key. That's why we're open 24 hours," quipped Tasty employee Bob Martin.

As Harvard Square was waking up to a grey sky on a sleepy Sunday morning, the Tasty slowly wound down.

After a final breakfast featuring cheese omlettes with Tasty employees, the owners and their friends, the restaurant equipment was hauled away in a truck in the early afternoon. White signs were plastered on the windows announcing their temporary roosting place at 35 JFK St.

Even after the doors were locked, the Tasty was still the object of curiosity. Throughout the day, passersby stood on wooden boxes to peer over the white signs into the Tasty's empty shell.

"The faucet is still running," one woman remarked.

The sign in the Tasty window shares the restaurant's proud 81-year legacy: "29,565CrimsonMelissa K. CrockerCLEANING UP AND CLOSING DOWN: BOB MARTIN cleans the deep-fat frier early Sunday morning as the Tasty prepared to shut its doors.

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