By Marc Levy
Published: August 13, 2011
Signs on the side of 675 Massachusetts Ave. on Friday announce the coming of Valhalla, the next incarnation of the All Asia Bar. Its owners plan to use the larger space to lure national acts to play in addition to entry-level performers (Photo: Marc Levy).All Asia will soon be no Asia at all.
Last year manager Marc Shulman — facing the fact the 344 Massachusetts Ave. nightclub would be torn down and its space claimed for redevelopment by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — vowed the All Asia Bar would be “moving down the street, keeping the same name and expanding our hours of operation.”
He revealed Friday that one of those things was true: The decade-old club he runs with wife Patty Chen is moving down the street, to 675 Massachusetts Ave., the 5,000-square-foot space that actually fronts on Prospect Street and, until its June move elsewhere in the square, was home to Cambridge Community Television studios, offices and classrooms.
But one of those things is false, too: As signs in the windows of the future club space say, and as Shulman confirmed, the All Asia will soon be known as Valhalla.
“We’re getting there,” Shulman said, describing his excitement over replacing those paper signs in some 10 days with digital displays. It’s a solid sign or progress and confidence after a months-long battle to fulfill lease obligations and get all the needed papers signed with landlord Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., of Boston.
But there are still a couple of permits needed to open Valhalla, and the lease is conditional on the securing of those permits, “a process that supposedly can go on a while,” Shulman said. “It’s kind of painful.”
One permit involves parking, Shulman said. Another is likely to involve a problem facing Central Square nightclubs city councillor Ken Reeves has mentioned repeatedly over the months: An archaic law requiring nightclubs to have Massachusetts Avenue entrances.
With councillors eager to keep Central Square lively, though, and the help of ubiquitous Cambridge attorney James Rafferty, permitting may not hold Valhalla up for long. The council is on summer break and returns to deal with such issues Sept. 12.
An opening date isn’t set for Valhalla — oddly, Shulman is adopting a Norse name while moving farther from an Irish pub and restaurant called Asgard, which is in itself an odd (Norse) name for an Irish pub — but another club is set for a September opening. That 450 Massachusetts Ave. club, Moksa, is touting its late-night hours and the food of chef Patricia Yeo, who also cooks at Moksa’s parent restaurant and lounge, Om in Harvard Square. (The name of the new club seems to refer to the Sanskrit word for “release” or “letting go.” It is not Norse.)
Bigger space for big plans
The square footage of the Valhalla space is significantly larger than Shulman can use at All Asia, which is listed by the city assessor as having 5,896 square feet, including a basement, but only 2,948 on the ground floor that includes a small, low stage in a corner and a large central bar.
Shulman is excited by the possibilities of the larger space.
“We’re going to give everyone a run for their money,” he told Dirty Water News in February. “We’ll still be doing doing the entry-level acts, but we will also be bringing in more national acts like the Middle East does.”
All Asia was forced to move with the December announcement that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology planned to build a five-story, 240,000-square-foot building at 298-334 Massachusetts Ave., including retail on the ground floor and research and office space above. Also slated to be torn down as part of the $100 million-plus development with Forest City Boston: Thailand Cafe, J.N. Philips Auto Glass and institute building NW62. It’s all been widely referred to as the “All Asia block.”
“I have no energy to focus on, you know, fighting the power,” Shulman told Dirty Water News. “My energy is more toward designing a premier space that maintains the All Asia’s place in the arts community, but also allows for a bigger, greater thing to happen in the Central Square area that will put us legitimately on the map.”