“Trust me,” Clay Fernald, the publicity and promotions manager of the Middle East Nightclub writes, “the reason you fall in love with people here is because they love what they are doing.”
That seems to be the magic ingredient that keeps The Middle East, Boston’s favorite night spot, up and running. It’s held together by people who love where they are and what they do.
The owners, Nabil and Joseph Sater, took over the Middle East– then just a Lebanese restaurant– in 1970, and hired musicians and dancers to add to the atmosphere of the place. Five years later, in 1980, they added jazz and blues to the mix, and in 1987 they hosted their first rock show. By the next year they had expanded the operation to cover their entire corner of the street, and in 1993 they converted the abandoned bowling alley in the basement into the Middle East Downstairs.
Today the Middle East consists of three amazing, vegan- and paleo-friendly restaurants— the upstairs bar, the Corner restuarant, and Zuzu— and two music venues: the Middle East Upstairs and the Middle East Downstairs.
But everyone knows that.
In a city full of music, the Middle East is special, and it has everything to do with the Sater brothers, their employees, and the philosophy that unites them.
As Clay explains, “The philosophy of being all welcoming to all kinds of music, personalities and good vibes is the backbone to our success. The music industry changes, and we remain independent and thrive on our community and our integration in Central Square.”
What Clay has so neatly summed up is a phenomenon surrounding the Middle East that customers and coworkers have been noticing from the start: this place lives and breathes its community, and opens its arms to every sort of person who wants to become a part of it. Every restaurant or nightclub responds to the needs of its customers, but the Middle East does so with a rare sensitivity, welcoming mainstream, counterculture, and every shade of gray (or neon) in between into an environment that absorbs them indiscriminately.
It isn’t just customers that are made to feel at home at the Middle East– the staff there functions as a highly-extended family, with the only rule being, as Clay put it, “No B.S.” They largely hire from within, a process that is exemplified by Clay himself: he has held nearly every position there is, from door security to his current job as a manager.
Although the business is changing, with trends toward electronic/dubstep DJs and hip hop performers most notable, the Middle East has a solid foundation built on decades of anchoring a neighborhood, and to some extent a city, to its cultural heartbeat.
–Rachel, Future Boston Intern