A landmark of Somerville's Davis Square, the Rosebud Bar and Grill is preparing to change hands.
Restaurateur Martin Bloom has reached a deal to buy the historic diner and its back room bar and grill from long-time owner Evangelos "Galley" Nichols. The deal is expected to be finalized in April, Bloom said by phone Wednesday.
The diner will be historically restored and the menu changed, Bloom said, but he wants to keep the nostalgic feel, including its fluorescent pink sign and gothically painted exterior.
"There's no question whatsoever, it's going to remain what it is," he said Wednesday. "It's part of the charm, but it needs some fixing."The Rosebud is one of three traditional diners in Somerville, and the longest-standing in the city. Charles Peveloris opened the Rosebud in 1941, naming it as an ode to Citizen Kane, which came out that year. Peveloris sold it to Nichols in 1958.
Buddy's Diner was installed on Washington Street in 1951, and Kelly's Diner was brought to Ball Square in 1996, said Somerville's Preservation Planner Kristi Chase.
The Rosebud is on national and state registries of historic places, and classified as a local historic district, which requires any work done to the exterior to be approved by the city's Historic Preservation Commission, Chase said.
"They only approve these if they are in keeping with the history of property," Chase said.
The business has had the same owner for 55 years, but there have been many changes to the property in that time, according to historic records filed by Nichols with the National Registry of Historic Places.
An adjoining bar and club was attached to the rear of the building in the 1960s, and Nichols leased the business in the 1980s and it operated as a Mexican Restaurant. The diner was reopened in 1995 after extensive renovations, according to the records. Both Nichols and his son, Bill, who operates the Rosebud, could not be reached Wednesday.
The property was first eyed by Bloom -- who has opened over 30 restaurants, including the steakhouse chain Vinny Testa's -- while he worked as a consultant for Boston-based Tasty Burger last year, he said. Tasty Burger ultimately settled on a location in Harvard Square, but he remained intrigued by the Rosebud, he said.
"It''s so iconic, and it has a phenomenal location in Davis Square," he said.
Davis Square has undergone a transformation in recent years, with many old storefronts being revamped into frozen yogurt shops and hip bars. But Rebekah Gewirtz, the city councilor representing Davis Square, said the Rosebud is cherished and belongs in the neighborhood.
"There are people who have lived here for many years and there are people who are new, but I think everybody loves the Rosebud," she said. "It's iconic. There's a lot of history there."
A request to transfer the alcohol, entertainment, and victualler licenses to Bloom was approved by the city's License Commission last month. Bloom said he expected to appear before the city on plans to bring the building up to code in coming weeks.