Longtime Claremont eatery closes doors over rent issues

The Claremont Village said goodbye to a longtime local favorite last week. After 21 years serving American and French fare on the corner of Harvard and Bonita, Harvard Square Cafe has officially called it quits in the city of Claremont.

Harvard Square has claimed the hearts and hunger of locals and passersby over the years with its sophisticated atmosphere, trademark outdoor patio, and menu favorites like the baked Brie and crab cakes and decadent wine list.

Shutting down was a difficult, but necessary decision for the cafe’s General Manager Cap Peck, who said he was driven to close shop because of the escalating rent and increasing difficulties with the building’s owner. “He wouldn’t work with us on the rent. It became incredibly difficult to stay in business,” Mr. Peck admitted.

Despite challenges with the building and owner, Mr. Peck regrets having to leave the city, assuring his enjoyment working with staff from nearby City Hall.

“They are wonderful people. Many of them would walk over to the restaurant for lunch,” he said.  “Claremont is a great place. We’ve never had a problem at all.”

More than anything, the local restaurateur says he will miss the atmosphere created by the customers who would grace his establishment on a regular basis.

“They made the flavor of Harvard Square what it was,” Mr. Peck said. “From the professors at the colleges to staff at City Hall and the local residents as well. It was really fun being here because of the people.”

Though the cafe has been cleared, and the once bustling corner is now empty of the sounds and sights of patrons enjoying an afternoon meal, it won’t be the end for Mr. Peck and his cafe. The spirit of Harvard Square Cafe will live on in a new establishment, dubbed “The Pump House,” which Mr. Peck hopes will open in the nearby city of Montclair sometime next month. An exact location and date are still unknown at this time.

The Pump House gets its name from a little piece of Claremont traveling with Mr. Peck to his new gastro pub—an antique pump previously found on the Harvard Square patio.

Though leaving Claremont is bittersweet, Mr. Peck looks forward to his new prospects. “The rent structure is better. It is an incredibly good situation for us,” he said.

“We will miss it here, but we are happy and excited for what’s to come.”

—Beth Hartnett



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