Friday, May 17, 2024

Diners enjoy Middle Eastern food at Cafe Algiers. (Photo: Cambridge Local First)

A smooth transition of ownership is still ongoing for Cafe Algiers, which gave generations of Harvard Square diners a scare by shutting abruptly in October before a surprise reopening Nov. 5.


Owner Emil Durzi remains in a nursing home, but lawyers for the Algiers corporation are transferring assets to Sami Herbawi, who stepped in to take over for Durzi with manager Leo Diodato while still running his own Andala Coffee House in Central Square.

The restaurant and coffee shop has been an institution in the square for some 45 years at 40 Brattle St. The transfer of assets that formalizes the deal could offer comfort to the hundreds – or thousands – of customers who raced to have one last mint tea or Mediterranean meal, or took to social media to express sadness at missing one. The Algiers menu has since seen some changes to the menu, with favorites retained but some dishes added (and some prices lowered).

The legal transfer will still take “a month or two,” Herbawi told the License Commission at a Feb. 8 meeting, after which he would come in for a formal licensing. In the meantime, profits at Algiers are going to Durzi.

Commissioners’ main concern was over the serving of alcoholic beverages, since the absent Durzi was still listed as manager of record.

“It’s not the preferred method, but we do know that it happens,” chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer said of Herbawi’s so-far unofficial management of the alcoholic beverage license during the transition. “We just want to make sure that whatever profits are being derived go to Emil Durzi – at least with regard to the alcohol. Whatever agreement you guys come up with in terms of the food and everything else, that’s neither here nor there, but because he is the only approved interest-holder, any profits deriving out of that need to go to him.”