The Cantab Lounge in Central Square is getting upgrades before an expected Dec. 2 reopening. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The Cantab Lounge will reopen to the public Dec. 2 without the Boston Poetry Slam, according to a booker for the venerable Central Square bar and nightclub. There was hope the weekly event would still be revived.

With news last week that the soul and funk band The Chicken Slacks would return to its Thursday night residency, Cantab manager Michael Cronin said he also hoped to bring back the Wednesday night slams, a popular event held at the Cantab since Oct. 16, 1992. “I’m still looking for that Boston Poetry Slam contact,” Cronin said.

On Thursday, though, booker Mickey Bliss, whose Cantab space operates as Club Bohemia, said he’d been trading voicemails with slam curator Simone Beaubien and confirmed that “she’s passed. She doesn’t want to bring it back.”

“The message she left me was that she wasn’t interested in bringing the slam back, but that she would think about trying to find somebody else to come in who wanted to do it,” Bliss said, “and she’d let us know.”

Beaubien said Thursday by email that she would “try to post an update” on the slam website this weekend about her plans. A further attempt to get information wasn’t immediately answered. 

On the website in July, Beaubien had written: “The global pandemic, the fluctuation of official response to the health crisis, and the impossibility of guessing the shape of live art to come mean this: even before the shuttering of our home venue, I could not predict what the future of the Boston Poetry Slam might be.”

Her decision “kind of floored me. I thought she’d be anxious to get back – she’s probably been doing it 30 years,” Bliss said. “She’s pretty dedicated. But you know, things happen. Maybe she had time off during the pandemic and then just figured she didn’t want to go back to it.”

Back to business

The Cantab – established 1938 and owned by Richard “Fitzy” Fitzgerald for much of the past 50 years – closed for the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 with other public venues. On July 19, 2020, Fitzgerald said he was selling, and it looked as though the good times were at an end – until Tim Dibble, a partner in a private equity firm, stepped in to buy and refurbish the joint.

Workers are onsite daily doing construction, Cantab publicist Joe Viglione said, and the Cantab might be refreshed and ready to go as early as Halloween though Dibble and Cronin were being cautious in pushing an opening to November. Viglione sent out tentative schedules with a Nov. 18 reopening date, then revised that to Dec. 2. “They are upgrading everything and found more to do,” Viglione said last week, but the new date was “safe” – and meant opening on a Thursday, with the intent of relaunching with a Chicken Slacks performance.

That will be followed by a calendar of alternative rock and other bands downstairs Fridays and Saturdays at Club Bohemia; a “Bluegrass and Beyond” on Mondays, replacing an open mic night, and more bluegrass on Tuesdays; and Wednesday and Sunday jam sessions, Bliss said.

“We’re trying to return as much as back to normal as we can,” Bliss said.

Update on Oct. 25, 2021: The Boston Poetry Slam website was updated Thursday with a message that “we’ve been receiving lots of inquiries about the Boston Poetry Slam. Although we, too, are very excited to see our dive bar reviving, we currently do not have any shows scheduled … The Boston Poetry Slam remains on hiatus. We currently are not planning any in-person or online shows.”

Still, the post says, “We are in touch with the Cantab and we are investigating if possibilities exist to run a safe, accessible and staffable show.”

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