Tavern to Open in Former Z Square

The 14 JFK St. space that previously housed Z Square has remained conspicuously empty for more than eight months since the restaurant was shut down in January due to license violations. But last Tuesday, Peter Lee and Patrick Lee, owners of the popular restaurant and bar Grafton Street, applied to transform the space into the Brattle House Tavern.

According to the Cambridge License Commission, Peter Lee—who also co-owns Redline and Temple Bar in Cambridge—also applied for an entertainment license that will allow the restaurant to provide live music, Karaoke, and a DJ.

According to Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, the new restaurant and bar may open its doors as early as this December. She hesitated to provide a date, saying that Patrick and Peter Lee have not yet finalized a concept for the restaurant.

“Z Square is a beautiful space, but they will be making some renovations to it and I expect it’ll all happen very quickly,” Jillson said. “If it isn’t ready by the holidays, we hope it will be ready at least for our Winter Carnival.”

Jillson said she was “very pleased” that the 14 JFK St. space has finally been rented out after more than half a year of vacancy.

Shabu Square, a hotpot restaurant on the corner of Eliot and Winthrop Streets that closed its doors after less than a year in operation, will be replaced by Conga, a Latin American tapas restaurant in the coming months. Panja S. Lymswam, the owner of Shabu and two other Thai restaurants in the Square—Spice and 9 Tastes—appeared before the License Commission in August to request the change.

Lymswam and Peter and Patrick Lee are among many restaurateurs who hold multiple businesses in the Square. Matt Curtis and Chris Lutes opened Tory Row this year in addition to their Square restaurant Cambridge 1; Marley J. Brush, the daughter of Thomas J. Brush who co-owns Felipe’s, opened Crèma Café last year. Monella, a clothing boutique that replaced the regional chain JasmineSola a year ago, is operated by the same family that owns Mudo on JFK St.

“There is a sort of formula—I don’t want to call it magic—but it’s that good business sense of what works in Harvard Square,” Jillson said.

The Crate & Barrel building on Brattle St., which has also been empty since January, has had less luck in finding tenants. “The building is an award-winning design, and it’s unlikely the owners are just going to put anyone in there just to rent out the space,” Jillson said.

—Staff writer Shan Wang can be reached at wang38@fas.harvard.edu.