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House of Blues in Cambridge to close; begins seeking new site

The House of Blues in Harvard Square, the original venue in the well-known national chain, has been sold, its owners announced yesterday. Doors to the 11-year-old live-music club and Southern-style restaurant will close on Sept. 14. The company has already begun looking for a new, larger home in the Boston area, according to Jack Gannon, House of Blues senior vice president for marketing.

"We are fully committed to the Boston market and will continue to have a presence there," Gannon said in an interview. "The footprint of the Cambridge space just isn't sufficient for a larger music hall, larger restaurant, and larger retail. . . . We have several different models [for finding a new site]. We typically go into an existing structure and renovate."

The sale of the club has not yet been recorded with the Middlesex Registry of Deeds in Cambridge. But on Aug. 27, the New York City company Brother Jimmy's applied to have a hearing next month for the transfer of the liquor license that was held by the House of Blues, according to Richard Scali, executive officer of the Cambridge License Commission.

The Cambridge Brother Jimmy's, if approved, will keep the same number of seats, according to the license application. The new restaurant will also keep the stage, but Brother Jimmy's application states that it will not be operating as a music venue when it first opens. The application included a menu for Brother Jimmy's, which will be a full-service restaurant, featuring barbecue and the like, and will cater to families. The company operates three similar eateries in New York City. Attempts to reach officials of Brother Jimmy's yesterday were unsuccessful.

The first and smallest of the House of Blues venues -- with a capacity of only about 180 -- opened with a 1992 bash headlined by Dan Aykroyd and his Blues Brothers Band. But the club always seemed to be an experiment with a potentially limited life span. Early plans to expand the facility never came to fruition, and the restaurant was a work in progress that was subject to frequent tinkering.

Yet perhaps because of its smaller size, the Cambridge location stayed true to its name and relied more on blues acts than many of its sister clubs.

A statement issued by the Los Angeles-based House of Blues company -- which owns smaller-capacity clubs in eight US cities and owns, operates, or books 20 arena and amphitheater venues in North America -- quoted company executive Dolf Berle saying "the sale of our venue in Cambridge is a business decision that does not at all affect our commitment to the Boston area. We have been in the Boston area for over ten years, and we will continue to have a very strong presence there."

According to the statement, ticket holders for concerts scheduled for after the Sept. 14 closing date can get refunds at the point of purchase. The company also held out the possibility that some shows could be relocated with ticket holders to be notified about any such changes.

Gannon said House of Blues employees were notified of the decision yesterday. Lisa Bellamore, the marketing manager at the Harvard Square club, said that though there had been "rumblings through the grapevine . . . the news was sudden and heartbreaking. But we're all looking forward. House of Blues has plans in place for everyone. . . . It was the best decision for the company, financially, to help give birth to a larger venue."

Steve Morse and Carol Beggy of the Globe staff contributed to this story.

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