The Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub in Cambridge’s Central Square finally has a liquor license for its adjacent music venue, Sonia, which took over the space left after T.T. the Bear’s closed down in July 2015 following more than 30 years in business. Though Sonia has been open since last March, the complexities of the city’s licensing allocation left the music venue without a liquor license until now, according to Vanyaland.
Towards the end of 2014, Joseph and Nabil Sater, brothers and owners of the Middle East and ZuZu Restaurant, purchased the building that housed both of their venues, as well as T.T. the Bear’s and Central Convenience. When T.T. the Bear’s closed, the Saters petitioned to expand their existing businesses into the vacant space, keeping it separate but under their purview; this became Sonia.
Bonney Bouley, the former owner of T.T. the Bear’s, had battled with Cambridge’s License Commission over the liquor license she had purchased that, upon the closure of the venue, lost all its value as she tried to sell it in a market where free licenses are available. She worked with a lawyer to attempt to get the License Commission to buy back her license, citing “illegal regulations that manipulated the market for liquor licenses, outside the scope of its legal authority.” The commission denied her request, but all the while that the license was still in her hands, the Saters were unable to gain a license for Sonia at the same address.
Now they’ve finally secured a license, which is reportedly an extension of the one used for the Middle East. This will allow Sonia to reduce fees for booking 18+ and 21+ shows and thereby expand the calendar of performances going forward, although as Vanyaland reports, Sonia will still book all-ages shows as well and will remain “a multi-genre venue.”