For more than 30 years, Upstairs on the Square has hosted dinners for Hasty Pudding honorees from jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald to actor Tom Cruise, but soon the Harvard Square fixture will host its last hurrah.
The restaurant, now at its second location at 91 Winthrop St., will close its doors for good with a New Year’s Eve Party on Dec. 31, according to co-owners Mary-Catherine Deibel and Deborah Hughes.
Deibel said the business has been doing reasonably well, but a kitchen fire took a little wind out of its sails last December and it is facing growing competition in the square. Now the building they are in is being sold and she and Hughes decided the time is right to close.
“We thought that it was a logical and sensible time to pursue other opportunities,” Deibel said Monday.
The restaurant opened in February of 1982 under the name of Upstairs at the Pudding in space above the Hasty Pudding Theatre on Holyoke Street and hosted the dinner for that year’s Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Ella Fitzgerald.
Since then, the restaurant has hosted other A-list actors and actresses from Julia Roberts to Tom Cruise and Clint Eastwood as they came to town for their Hasty Pudding awards.
“We’ve done those dinners and lunches for 31 years and it’s been fabulous and it’s one of the things that I’m kind of sad about,” said Deibel. “That is always a really fun time of year here.”
The restaurant changed its name to Upstairs on the Square when it relocated to Winthrop Street above Grendel’s Den in 2002 where it now has more than three floors of space, including one floor used for a bar and lunch area, and another floor housing a soiree room for events and fine dining. The top floor houses the restaurant’s full kitchen.
In addition to hosting Hasty Pudding dinners, Deibel said the business has had hundreds of wedding parties along with heads of state and other dignitaries visiting the nearby Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Deibel said she may pursue work for a non profit organization after the closing. Hughes who is also a chef and designed the interior of the restaurant, said she is definitely going to open another food venue in the future, but neither she nor Deibel have anything definitive planned.
“Right now we are really concentrating on having a great 2 ½ months here with our staff and lots of old customers,” Deibel said.
The restaurant will toast its 31-year run with a finale New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31, and other events planned for the restaurant can be found at www.upstairsonthesquare.com.
Meanwhile, Grendel's Den owner Kari Kuelzer said that her family's restaurant and bar that has been in Harvard Square since 1971 still has a lease for its space and is not going anywhere. Kuelzer said she is sorry to see Upstairs on the Square go.
"I'm real sad to lose them as neighbors," Kuelzer said.