An entertainment license for Central Square’s Out of the Blue Too art gallery was approved Tuesday by the License Commission, paving the way for poetry readings, dance and music events and an upcoming Shakespeare play.
It’s another step forward for the gallery, which had a December grand opening after a months-long soft opening that saw a space empty since 2009 fill with art and craft fairs, board game nights and even a women’s wrestling event. The license allows gatherings for up to 99 people in a 6,000-square-foot former Blockbuster that could hold up to 290 people, were it not for laws addressing a lack of sprinkler system. (It also means no candles or incense during readings.)
“I was actually going to cut it off at 150 anyway,” said co-owner Hope Zimmerman, who appeared at the commission hearing with founder and co-owner Tom Tipton.
A permanent alcohol license was also off the table, but the gallery has the ability to ask for up to 30 a year so beer and wine can be served at the opening of art exhibitions or other special events, Zimmerman confirmed. A firefighter has to be present on details when the alcohol is served.
At the same time, the commission approved a license for the gallery that lets it keep, buy, store and sell secondhand furniture, bric-a-brac, art objects, paintings, jewelry or antiques – another expansion of uses at a space that, at more than twice the size of the Prospect Street space the gallery occupied until a rent increase last summer, already seemed to “have something for everyone. That’s what we’re trying to do,” in Zimmerman’s words.
Tipton and Zimmerman have called the 541 Massachusetts Ave. space surprisingly affordable – but still a big leap in money for a ragtag, community-based arts center where the staff is mainly volunteer, the works are affordable and “artists of all abilities are given a chance” to show their work.
While Out of the Blue Too exceeded sales goals in November and looked set for a good December as holiday shoppers tried to buy local, crowdsourced fundraising has been slow and retailers always suffer in the first months of the year. A “Show Me the Love: Maker’s Market” for Valentines Day is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, including live acoustic music and complimentary coffee and tea.
Zimmerman was grateful for the licenses.
“If we don’t have this, we don’t have a business in two months,” she told the commission.