Five Fun Businesses that Boston Could Really Use Post-Pandemic

Cuddle rooms have worked out elsewhere, so why not here?

Visitors play with a cat at a NYC cat cafe. / Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s what we can go without—and what we really need: Family, friends, food, and a little bit of fun, for starters. You know, the basic human stuff.

As business regulations ease up, shots go into arms, and the city’s small-business sector begins to rebuild, maybe there’s an opportunity to introduce more establishments that sell us the really important stuff. Do we really need one more place to find—I don’t know, deep-fried craft taco salads served out of mason jars of Sriracha, or something? Probably not. But here are a few unique businesses that have taken off in other cities, and address more fundamental needs of the post-pandemic urbanite. Things like hugs, anxiety management, and responsible sleep patterns. Sure, some of these places sound pretty ridiculous. But the itches they scratch? Those are entirely real.

Screaming rooms

Have a pent-up burning in your chest that’s ready to explode? First, ask yourself if it’s acid reflux. (Bad burritos can do that.) No? Okay, then—you might just need to let out a good scream. It’s understandable, considering the last year of pandemic shutdowns, economic catastrophe, and political insanity; hence our guide to publicly accessible locales for ripping a huge howl. (Hope you like loud tunnels.) But wouldn’t it be great if Boston had a designated soundproof facility, like those that have popped up in Toronto and Texas, where guests can bellow into the abyss over whatever ailment of city life happens to be grinding their gears that day? Some places even let you smash things with bats! None of this sounds terribly healthy, but if it saves your neighbors from listening to Swedish death metal sing-alongs every night, it may not hurt.

Cat cafes

Boston deserved better. For years, we waited for someone in our city to do the right thing, the necessary thing, and open up one of those weird places where you go to have a cup of coffee and pet a small, soft army of adoptable cats the whole time. (A place that is not your hoarder-friend’s house.) Finally, Purr cat cafe opened in Brighton in 2017—but it was overshadowed by weird and nasty social media drama between its owner, an angry ex-employee, and local cat fanciers, and it closed within two years. Let’s do it again and do it right: The world needs more cuteness, and I need a world where my new barista is named Mr. Bojangles.

Cuddle rooms

Would you pay to be wrapped in a warm, all-enveloping embrace, soothed like a swaddled baby, and left feeling like you’d just taken a rejuvenating nine-month nap in an amniotic state? Of course you would. Every spa in Boston offers a seaweed wrap for that purpose. But what if you could get the same experience courtesy of a live human and professional cuddler? Believe it or not, people actually pay for this in places like Fort Myers. In fact, the cuddling industry even has a 1-800-DENTISTS equivalent, so it seems there’s a market for it, and if introducing a little platonic prostitution can reduce Bostonians’ road rage, I’m all for it. Does the idea of getting snuggled by a stranger sound kind of horrifying to you? Me too. But hey, maybe that just means we need a hug.

Sand-covered gyms

The fitness world is full of specialty studios and classes, from trampoline dodgeball to percussive drumming for strength. But Boston has yet to follow the lead of a California gym that once covered one of its training rooms in beach sand, giving clients a uniquely challenging space to push their cardio, balance, and endurance in new ways. (Have you ever tried jogging on the beach? It can be very good for you. It’s also super exhausting.) Admittedly, that sandy West Coast gym has since closed, but it was a brilliant idea. And here in Boston, where we have only a few months of real beach days, maybe an M Street Beach-looking facility would inspire us to stay summer-fit even in cuffing season. At the very least, imagine the regionally inspired workouts, like side-shuffle drills between half-buried Dunkin’ cups.

Day clubs

Look, I know Boston will never be Las Vegas. And it shouldn’t be! Imagine the electric bill. But wouldn’t it be great if we had nightclubs that were—wait for it—open during the day, as in Vegas, Ibiza, Miami, and elsewhere? Obviously we don’t have the weather for 12 months of pool parties, and we don’t necessarily need the kind of fist-pumping places that look straight out of a Jersey Shore reboot. (Pour one out for the late Quincy WaterWorks.) That said, there’s got to be space in the city for somewhere that, say, thirty-something professionals can dance on weekends (or even post-workday, pre-sunset) to top 40 and ’90s nostalgia, retire at a reasonable hour, and still sneak in a little aimless Instagram-scrolling before bed. Tech-world types would love it, and imagine all the future world-changing apps that would be born on cocktail napkins.