Monday, June 24, 2024

Christopher’s in Cambridge’s Porter Square and its attached bar, Toad, are in a pending sale. (Photo: Marc Levy)

With a sale imminent for Christopher’s Restaurant & Bar and Toad, its attached bar and music club, co-owners Charles Christopher and Holly Heslop are planning a closing night party for Sept. 16 – and not much beyond that, Christopher said.

“Everyone is happy, so we’re optimistic the sale will go through, but a lot of people think this is a done deal and it isn’t until it is,” Christopher said Wednesday by phone. The details of a roughly $3 million deal are now with lawyers, he said.

News of the sale of the two mainstay businesses in Cambridge’s Porter Square were first reported by Steve Morse of The Boston Globe. The owners said in January that Christopher’s would never reopen under their ownership from its shutdown during Covid, because of the lack of staff, but that Toad would stay open “until we turn over the keys to someone.”

The two-story Christopher’s is at 1920 Massachusetts Ave., and the tiny Toad is at 1912 Massachusetts Ave.

Toad has maintained “a great staff and is almost back to pre-Covid numbers” for the limited days it’s open, Christopher said, but the restaurant calls for 65 or 70 employees.

The couple also own the Cambridge Common restaurant and its downstairs Lizard Lounge club at 1667 Massachusetts Ave. in the Baldwin neighborhood, and are keeping those after the sale.

Music at Toad

Christopher and Heslop don’t know what plans the buyer – so far unidentified – has for the restaurant. “If anyone wants a burger, we’re open and going strong down at Cambridge Common,” Christopher said.

Toad, though, will keep hosting music; all three bidders considered for the property said keeping it a bar and music club was the goal, with one of the potential buyers being a “bunch of musicians who have played at Toad but didn’t have financing yet,” Christopher said. The buyer whose deal was accepted is a habitué of Toad, Christopher confirmed, which means Porter Square is seeing a dynamic similar to what played out in Central Square in 2021: Tim Dibble, a partner in a private equity firm, revived the Cantab Lounge as a former Cambridge resident with fond memories of spending time there himself.

JJ Gonson, proprietor of the music presenter Once, talked with Christopher and Heslop early in the year about buying Christopher’s to replace the Once Somerville hall she ran until Covid, but decided the space didn’t work. “It wasn’t right for me – I don’t want to run a restaurant,” said Gonson, who also owns the caterer Cuisine en Locale. Asked Wednesday about the pending sale of the restaurant and club, she said, “It is a wonderful place, and I’m so glad its going to stay.”

Farewell party

If a sale goes through, the closing night party under the ownership of Christopher and Heslop will take place in the bar’s 30th anniversary year. (Christopher’s opened in 1981, and hosted music before Toad opened.)

From hosting a 20th anniversary party at Toad, Christopher knows managing the closing might be a challenge.

“We’re rounding up as many musicians who’ve been at Toad as we can who might want to play. There’s quite a few already, and we’ll see if we can fit them all in one night,” said Christopher, noting that the bar has a capacity of 62 people – which might demand celebrating in shifts. “It’s going to be kind of crazy, but we’ll do the best we can.”

All the emphasis so far is on planning the farewell, with little thought of what life will be like after if the sale goes through, he said, even though handing off responsibility for a business in exchange for a significant influx of cash might have some considering a vacation.

“We’re selling something we never planned,” and with post-Covid staffing problems “we’re each working a couple of jobs each, Holly and I,” Christopher said. “We can’t think much about relaxing right now.”