A fixture of the local music scene is reportedly up for sale.
According to Cambridge Day, the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub is currently seeking buyers, with an asking price of $40 million for the sprawling complex located on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Brookline Street that includes the Middle East upstairs and downstairs venues Zuzu, Sonia, and The Corner.
Originally a Lebanese restaurant purchased by the Sater family in the 1970s, the Central Square venue began regularly booking local and national music acts in the late ’80s, frequently bringing in up-and-coming bands and artists.
On Thursday, Ned Wellbery, the venue’s in-house talent buyer, announced on Facebook that he was leaving his job effective immediately.
On Thursday evening, the Saters weighed in on rumors of a sale on the Middle East’s Facebook page, saying they are “looking to develop the property,” but that the restaurants and nightclubs would stay open during the process and that the Middle East business would remain a part of any future development.
“To our valued community, the Sater family would like to inform you that they’re looking to develop the property; the Middle East restaurant and nightclub will remain running and open as usual,” the club posted. “We will keep you updated as we go through this process. The Middle East business is here to stay and will be a part of any development at 472-480 Mass Ave. Thank you for your years of support and we look forward to a promising future together.”
In 2014, the Saters bought the building that houses the Middle East complex for $7.1 million, and reportedly raised the rent on famed rock club T.T. the Bear’s Place, which closed in 2015. After that, the Saters revamped the space and reopened it as nightclub Sonia in 2017.
Owner Nabil Sater told Cambridge Day the complex’s high mortgage payments were “draining” and that 100-hour work weeks were “tough.”
The nightclub has been mired in controversy in recent years. In 2018, Joseph Sater stepped down as the club’s manager following sexual misconduct allegations that Sater said are false. The allegations, which the Middle East called “unsubstantiated third-party claims” in a Facebook post, led to an informal boycott by some artists, patrons, and event organizers.
Calls to the Middle East were not returned, and a representative for Hunneman Real Estate, the company reportedly handling the sale, declined to comment.