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After 8-year absence, ManRay is returning to Cambridge nightlife

Posted by Brock Parker  February 12, 2013 09:07 PM

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When it closed in Central Square eight years ago, ManRay had been a staple to Cambridge nightlife for two decades. Now ManRay owner Don Holland is bringing it back.

The nightclub on Brookline Street that was a hub for goth events, gay nights and fetish parties in Central Square, will reopen nearby at 541-565 Massachusetts Avenue this fall.

It's a homecoming that Holland said has been years in the making, and a long search to find a new home in Central Square.

“You got to be in the square, you know,” Holland said Tuesday. “That is where my crowd is.”

Holland had been in Central Square for 26 years when he closed ManRay in 2005 because his lease had run out and the location was being redeveloped as a condominium building.

He had taken over the business in 1979 when it was Simeone’s Restaurant, but he remade it into a gay club under the name of Campus in 1983 before changing it to ManRay in 1985.

When he closed in 2005, Holland told the Globe he planned to reopen at another site in Central Square. It took a while, but the club will reopen in the former Blockbuster Video spot with standing room for 250 people and a restaurant with seating for 79 people.

The club will be considerably smaller than the old nightclub, which held more than 500 people.

Dancing, a disc jockey and ManRay favorites, such as gay night, will also be revived, and Holland said he’s also bringing back his old general manager.

Tuesday night, the Cambridge License Commission approved the transfer of Holland’s alcoholic beverages and restaurant license to the new location and chairman Michael Gardner said he’s hoping the city can say “welcome back” to the business soon.

But not everyone is happy to see ManRay back in business.

Cambridge resident Gary Mello told the Commission Tuesday that ManRay was a “freak show” that created noise in the square until the early morning hours even though it is a residential neighborhood. He said ManRay featured fetish and sadomasochism nights, and the program is something that other communities would simply not tolerate.

“The best thing to happen to Central Square in many years was the long-overdue closure of the ManRay nightclub,” Mello said.

Holland’s attorney James Rafferty said the club worked with Cambridge Police to address problems that arose at ManRay in the 1980s, and he said the club put staff outside the building after closing time when patrons were leaving.

“He ran a popular spot that attracted a lot of patrons,” Rafferty said.

The new ManRay will serve alcohol until 2 a.m. and will probably have a different character from the old nightclub because it will have a restaurant, Rafferty said.

After the new location on Massachusetts Avenue is renovated, Rafferty said ManRay is expected to reopen in the fall.

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