Thursday, June 20, 2024

Bukowski Tavern has been open on Cambridge Street in Inman Square since the early 2000s. (Photo: Marc Levy)

A “restaurant space available” sign was posted at Bukowski Tavern this week, an Inman Square institution since the early 2000s, and on Saturday, the phone lines seemed down.

That puts the writing literally on the wall that Bukowski Tavern is looking to join a growing list of Cambridge restaurants and bars closed during the coronavirus crisis, including Brit Bakery, Cafe Pamplona, Cuchi Cuchi, The Field, Flat Top Johnny’s, the Legal Sea Foods in Harvard Square, Parsnip, Restaurant Dante, The Table at Season to Taste and Wit’s End – another Inman Square establishment. Somerville has lost restaurants including an Au Bon Pain and Bergamot.

By some estimates, the coronavirus is expected to ultimately cost the state around one-third of its restaurants.

The signature neon sign of Bukowski Tavern in Inman Square. (Photo: Bukowski Tavern via Facebook)

Though a banner announcing curbside takeout has been up for weeks, the restaurant never reopened from a coronavirus closing for even that limited service. The signature neon sign of a line attributed to namesake poet Charles Bukowski – “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” – has been removed.

Bukowski opened in 2002 or 2003 – depending on the testimony to the License Commission you choose to believe – as a loud, boozy joint that might have done the poet proud, and its signature White Trash Dip was enjoyed late into the night by a crowd of locals that included comedians and friends from the original ImprovBoston comedy club. After a dozen years in operation, Bukowski closed for several months in 2014 to scrub off the grunge with $350,000 in renovations (later described as a $1 million renovation). It kept the shell but brought in new kitchen equipment and furniture as Gordon Wilcox’s hospitality group welcomed chef Brian Poe as a partner, adding wild game but keeping the White Trash Dip. “Our concept of great food, great beer and surly service has kept people coming back,” the bar’s website boasts.

Then came the coronavirus, and statewide shutdown orders for public places.

In March, Poe – also behind Boston’s Parish Café and Tip Tap Room – told the Boston Herald he wasn’t sure which way things would go. “I’ve never seen such a resilient city,” he said, but “It’s in the heads of all of the chefs and restaurants: We feel like it all might come down, but we’re not sure yet.”

In addition to the 1281 Cambridge St., Inman Square, location, there’s a 50 Dalton St., Boston, location that opened in 1998. It is open and serving – but a worker there Saturday said the locations were separate businesses.

This post was updated Aug. 1, 2020, to correct that Bukowski Tavern opened in Inman Square in 2002 or 2003. It was updated Aug. 2, 2002, to correct that MidiCi had closed in Somerville.