Cambridge Businesses Are Taking Advantage of the MBTA’s Late-Night Service

More places are applying for extended hours now that the trains and buses run into the early morning.

With the MBTA running later as part of a one-year pilot program, Cambridge businesses are thinking creatively by petitioning city officials so they can keep their stores open longer to coincide with the last outgoing buses and trains.

On Tuesday, Cambridge’s Licensing Commission gave the go-ahead for Kendall Square Cinema to start showing movies well past midnight, so that patrons can catch a feature flick and still find a ride home after-hours without issue. “Obviously because of the new T hours, people can actually go to the movies later. [The theater is] going to add that extra few hours on the weekends. It’s a wonderful thing,” said Elizabeth Lint, the Licensing Commission’s executive director.

According to Cambridge Day, Howard Sandler, the theater’s general manager, told the three-person committee this week that keeping the movie complex open later would be a boon for both business and residents. Starting in mid-May, he said the cinema plans to host showings of “quirky” cult classics, rolling into the wee-hours of the morning, as well as add later showtimes to the films that rotate through the cinema.

Without much hesitation, the commission granted Sandler’s request. “I think it’s great for people. It’s a college town. Kids are going to be out, and we want them to be able to get home safely,” said Lint.

Beginning sometime next month, Kendall Square Cinema will have its doors open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. during the week, Monday through Thursday, and be up and operating between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sandler told Boston that the whole proposal revolves around the T. “It’s huge, and it allows us to do things other theaters do. We are trying to go into that area where we will have a special midnight series, that’s part of it,” he said. “Before we would be careful about when the last show would go in, and then let out. A lot of people walk and use the T when coming to the cinema, so you had to think about them.”

Now that’s less of a concern, and people can grab food or drinks before catching a late-night film. “We will try to fill up as many screens as we can. If I can get a show to go in between 11:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m., I’ll do it,” said Sandler.

According to Lint, the Kendall theater isn’t the only place in Cambridge that’s seen the T’s new late-night hours as a prime opportunity to bring in more customers. She said Veggie Galaxy, the vegetarian diner on Mass. Ave., also petitioned for later service hours, something Lint and the board similarly allowed. Lint said the eatery has permission to extend its weekend hours to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, but will have to stop serving alcohol by 1 a.m.

Adam Penn, owner of Veggie Galaxy, said his motivation to apply for the later hours was in direct response to the T’s extended weekend service. “Absolutely, that’s the main reason that we did it,” he said. “Before the late-night service, one of my concerns was the staff being able to get home, but once they started offering the service, it removed that concern.”  He said as of now, they’re “slightly short-staffed,” so the exact start date for late-night food service is still up in the air.

Applications submitted by other businesses are still rolling in, too. “I think we have one or two other restaurants that have applied as well. I recall hearing that. There is a murmur out there,” said Lint. She said applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

MBTA officials, who this week said they were “pleased” by data showing that riders were flocking to the late-night trains during the first month since the pilot launched, were equally excited about the fact that Cambridge businesses were taking the opportunity to expand their own service hours to fall in line with the T’s new program. “General Manager Beverly Scott says that is ‘great news,’” said T Spokesman Joe Pesaturo, adding that Scott was curious to know if the cinema will be showing the Rocky Horror Picture Show. “Now people will be able to do the Time Warp, and still catch the last Red Line train. As [the general manager] always says, ‘the T is the engine that powers the local economy.’”

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