The longtime owner of Casablanca Restaurant in Harvard Square is putting his business up for sale after more than 50 years in Cambridge.
Sari Abuljubein, 66, who bought Casablanca in 1976—five years after he worked there as a waiter—put the restaurant on the market Monday, possibly joining a long list of Harvard Square institutions to leave. The asking price for the Mediterranean restaurant has not been disclosed.
“I’ve been there for many, many, many years,” Abuljubein said this morning. “It’s time to find someone else who is younger and more energetic with better ideas to come in and take over.”
Tucked under the Brattle Theatre at 40 Brattle St., Casablanca first opened its doors in 1955, and Abuljubein said the restaurant is doing fine. But like everywhere else, he said, the restaurant has had a difficult time because of the economy and competition.
While the restaurant has become an institution in Harvard Square over the years, Abuljubein said having people feel nostalgia for the restaurant doesn’t always translate into business.
“I wish we would see more of them rather than just feeling nostalgic about a place they used to habituate, used to partake of many years ago,” he said.
Abuljubein joked that the signature murals on the walls inside the restaurant are like the in-laws that came and never left, and institutions need to evolve.
He said the neighborhood around his restaurant has changed over the years.
“I don’t think Harvard Square offers the attraction and interest that it used to be,” he said. “I mean having three Starbucks in Harvard Square is ridiculous."
The potential sale of Casablanca comes as other institutions in Harvard Square have closed or changed hands in recent months. Independent bookstore Curious George & Friends closed its doors for good over the summer after more than 15 years in the heart of Harvard Square.
Later this year, restaurant chain Panera Bread will move into space vacated by Bob Slate Stationer in the spring after more than 75 years in the square. Store owners Justin and Mallory Slate have since sold the business.
Slate Stationer is expected to open under new ownership at 30 Brattle St. in Harvard Square this fall.