Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlie’s Kitchen was the most reliable place in Cambridge to see live music on a Monday night. While bands spread out at the far end of the venue’s second floor, friends and barflies crowded nearby, likely devouring a signature double cheeseburger as they looked on.
For years, Charlie’s Monday programming — aptly named Mondays Don’t Have To Suck — brought excitement to Harvard Square on the most tepid day of the week. But looking towards the fall, longtime booking agent Daniel Carswell is unsure if bands will be able to reclaim that corner of the second floor anytime soon.
Carswell shared on Facebook last week (August 13) that “Charlie’s Kitchen Shows might not come back. As in the Monday night live music on the 2nd floor type deal.” In his personal post, he speculated that shows could potentially return to the venue in 2022, or perhaps sooner — or “maybe [they] won’t at all.”
As of print time, the only thing that’s certain is that shows on the second floor “won’t be coming back for a bit,” as Carswell stated in an additional post, this time on the Charlie’s Kitchen Shows Facebook page.
Carswell cites decreased local foot traffic and a lean staff as the main problems hindering the return of Mondays Don’t Have To Suck, although the restaurant portion of the biz remains “alive and kicking,” he affirms.
“It really is just lack of staff,” Carswell tells Vanyaland. “The idea of having the shows, like any promoter would strive to do, is to pack the place. There isn’t enough hands from what I’m told to have people upstairs. It’s more than just one bartender too, [we need] someone to run door, bus tables with also a few people behind the bar. It’s a team effort.”
Worse, Harvard Square has seen a downtick in visitors since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving independent businesses like Charlie’s with significantly fewer customers. The arrival of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation.
“Before the Delta variant and the spread picked up, the fall seemed more hopeful,” he adds. “Harvard Square is just a ghost town. Between the lockdown and then working from home to shows, events, all of the Square going quiet, it cut out so much foot traffic for so many businesses.”
Unfortunately, until these issues are remedied, the upstairs of Charlie’s Kitchen will reman quiet. “Where it stands right now from what I’ve been told, is shows will come back if Harvard Square traffic picks up and more staff comes on,” Carswell concludes.