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Liquor License Approval Sets The Stage For A Revived Cantab Lounge

The Cantab Lounge in Cenral Square in Cambridge. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Cantab Lounge in Cenral Square in Cambridge. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Lovers of local music mourned when the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge went up for sale last year. This week, they finally had reason to rejoice, when the venerated club took a crucial step toward reopening.

On Wednesday, the Cambridge License Commission approved a liquor license for a revived Cantab under new owner Tim Dibble, a partner in the private equity firm Alta Equity.

“During COVID, everywhere you turned, there was so much we were losing,” Dibble said. “So many of our institutions, and restaurants and bars and everything. And there was so much we could not save, my wife and I, but we heard about the Cantab closing and thought that, you know, this is actually something that we can try and save.”

The Cantab was a Central Square staple for five decades, beloved for its dive bar vibes and stalwart support of local music and performance. Before closing down at the start of the pandemic, it was home to the area’s longest-running poetry slam and a popular bluegrass night that always attracted a packed house.

Dibble fell in love with the Cantab “years ago” when he lived in Cambridge. “I think anybody who went to see Little Joe Cook & The Thrillers once went twice and three and four times,” he said. “There was no other place like it.”

The bar’s sale is not yet final. Dibble said the liquor license still needed to be approved by the state, which could take between 30 and 60 days. He is also waiting on approval for renovations to update the space and make it ADA compliant.

Dibble said he planned to keep much of the programming and feel of the venue the same. “If you liked the Cantab before, and you don’t mind new bathrooms and credit card machines, you’re going to still like the Cantab,” he said. “It’s going to be what it was before.”

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Amelia Mason Twitter Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.

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