Friday, July 12, 2024

Rick Jenkins opens his Somerville Comedy Studio location Sept. 20, 2018. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Cambridge’s Comedy Studio was expected to reopen in its new Harvard Square location by late fall. The season is passing quickly, though, and its space remains an empty shell.

The revised opening date is late spring of 2024.

Costs to rebuild and reopen are projected at about $2 million, a high cost owner Rick Jenkins had not anticipated. And despite not running shows, The Comedy Studio still must pay rent on prime real estate in the heart of the square, in the new Abbot building at 7 John F. Kennedy St.

To make it happen, Jenkins has sold much of his stock, decreasing his holdings in the business to 20 percent from roughly 66 percent. “That means we’ll have the money to not only have some contingency if something goes wrong, we’ll also have a cushion in case sales are slow,” he said.

The Comedy Studio space in Harvard Square awaits construction in early October. (Photo: Gia Shin)

A search for a final round of investors included an Oct. 4 email to the club’s mailing list asking “Who Wants to Own a Piece of The Comedy Studio?” It set a minimum investment at $5,000. The Comedy Studio now has “enough potential people lined up,” and at a Saturday open house for people responding to the call,  most attendees were “interested in investing $20,000 or more,” Jenkins said.

Once the finances are locked down, Jenkins projects that construction will begin Nov. 1, putting the opening of the club in sight.

“Coming back to Harvard Square is huge because there was a Catch a Rising Star where there was an entire generation of alternative comedy that was started here,” he said.

Growing by stages

The new location in the basement of The Abbott is an upgrade in size: The original home on the third floor of the Hong Kong Restaurant in Harvard Square was about 1,000 square feet; in the next location in Bow Market, in Somerville’s Union Square, there was some 2,500 square feet; the Abbot space boasts 3,400 square feet. “We’re lucky to have found this place, which is 50 percent bigger and in a better location for roughly the same rent,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins is feeling confident about the future of The Comedy Studio in large part because of the faith investor displayed in his vision.

“Pretty much everyone is involved because of my track record of 25 years of doing shows,” he said. “Pretty much everyone is buying into The Comedy Studio rather than buying into a comedy club. The brand name and the experience [are] a huge plus we have.”

Comedy fan and investor

John Bonham-Carter, a Somerville businessman active in biotech and real estate, is The Comedy Studio’s largest investor. He started visiting The Comedy Studio when it was in the Hong Kong and saw it through the Bow Market era and Covid pandemic. “We went to a lot of their virtual sessions,” Bonham-Carter said. “And I really like supporting small businesses trying to make it work in a dire situation.” Bonham-Carter said he expects to invest at least $300,000 into the club, which would give him around 25 percent equity.

Bonham-Carter also envisions the Abbot space being available for rent during The Comedy Studio’s off-hours, a place where musicians can play and companies can hold presentations for lower rates than commercial pricing. “We can provide a service to the community beyond making sure everyone has a great time in the evening,” he said.

When Jenkins moved to Boston to become a comedian, he felt that he “wasn’t quite making it.” At 62, he believes he has reached the final stage of The Comedy Studio: “The crown jewel – the end of a novel.”