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Owners plan to demolish iconic music venue Middle East in Cambridge, build 6-story hotel

Plans to demolish iconic music venue Middle East
Plans to demolish iconic music venue Middle East 02:06

CAMBRIDGE - When night falls in funky Central Square, the moon shines, and the music spills out of the famed Middle East.
"You're taking out the heart of Central Square in Cambridge," says longtime Boston Radio personality Adam 12, "and putting in a new one. Hopefully it'll work."
He's talking about plans filed by the club's owner that would demolish the iconic landmark -- and its adjacent sister clubs -- for a six-story hotel, restaurant, and retail space.
"I hate to see all of the old ones being torn down," lamented music fan Matthew Shepard as he stood outside this evening. "There's a lot of good history of music in there."
Incredible history.
The Flaming Lips, Rings of Saturn, 7L and Esoteric, Killah Priest, Jedi Mind Tricks, and Public Enemy.
The list goes on and on.
In fact, for more than three decades, the Middle East has been a hotspot with staying power for both Indie and underground rock and hip hop -- where Adam 12 introduced many a performance.

Cambridge middle east
The Middle East nightclub in Cambridge CBS Boston

"And that was always the beauty of it," he told us. "You could go and see a national headlining act downstairs -- fill the place -- and the following night you could see the next up and coming local act upstairs -- and both would be great."
The Sater brothers -- Joseph and Nabil -- started this location as a Lebanese restaurant back in the 1970's.
But it wasn't until the mid 80's that legendary local music producer Billy Ruane convinced them to start booking live music.
And the parade continued today, as another band -- with a name unfamiliar to most but a modest, loyal following --unpacked its tour bus.
"It's the bands who aren't that big, but they make great music and stuff," says music lover Ayan Chatterjee. "I'm going to miss this place because I've had a lot of great memories here."
It's important to note that the new building plan -- if it happens -- includes two small music venues -- one in the basement and another on the first floor.
But fans argue such new digs won't have the gnarly character and the raucous soul of this old place.
"There was always that element of danger," says Adam 12, "that anything could happen down there at any time. But that's what made it cool."
The owner says it's simply premature to say whether the rebuild will -- or won't happen.
But he stresses that the Middle East is morphing -- not vanishing -- even as many local music fans seem to crave the "old" vibe.
"When you went there," says Adam 12, "you felt like you were stepping into history -- no matter who was on the stage." 

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