Loss of a local gem: Johnny D’s to close

On July 30, 2015, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times
A Somerville entertainment institution will be shutting its doors early next year, as Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant & Music Club calls it quits. ~Photo by Amy Swain

A Somerville entertainment institution will be shutting its doors early next year, as Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant & Music Club calls it quits. — Photo by Amy Swain

By Amy Swain

Somerville’s beloved Johnny D’s, a local landmark since 1969, has decided to close its doors. The restaurant/club has served generations of Boston area patrons and bands, and has been a destination for out-of-towners.

Owner of the venue Carla DeLellis posted a letter to the Johnny D’s website as a farewell from the establishment. The letter begins “Dear Friends,” and in it, you can feel the genuine emotion of a tough goodbye.

The space has been in the family since DeLellis’ parents bought Murphy’s Uptown forty-seven years ago. Although it will not remain our treasured Johnny D’s, it will remain in the family. DeLellis states in her farewell address that she feels the time is right to develop the property. In a correspondence with her, she disclosed that she will be turning the upper levels of the building into apartments, and is still unsure about the fate of the commercial space. “I hope to find some unique strong local independent business(es) to occupy the commercial space that are a good mix for residential and a good fit for the square,” she said. “I have not ruled out a small place to be run by my amazing staff.” This excludes the notion of housing another music venue, with respect to future tenants of the apartments.

Johnny D’s has seen some amazing performers; many remember when Neil Young joined Pegi Young and the Survivors’ set as guitarist in 2012, and few will forget Grammy winner Shelby Lynne or Sleepy Labeef earlier this year. Before the final goodnight, the staff plans to set the venue up with some more great performances, continuing until mid-February. There is no exact close date figured at this point.

DeLellis has proclaimed that January and February of 2016 will be a time to celebrate. At that time, the staff will reach out to those that have been part of their journey to celebrate with them – and that includes you, Somerville. Of the pending juxtaposition of celebration and loss, DeLellis says, “Right now I am thinking of how many great artists, staff, and customers I will get to see again in the next few months. And then it will be very, very mixed. This is the extension of my living room. It is where I see friends, make friends, make an impact on my community, and have an identity.”

Those who read the announcement letter posted on the venue’s website may have been left wondering about the relevance of the final words, “YELP responsibly.” DeLellis confirmed to us that this was not a way of revealing that review sites had hurt their business, or been responsible for their closing. However, as a service industry professional who plans to house other small businesses in the future, she wanted to remind patrons of the importance of the sites. “I thought it was a good opportunity to tell people to give positive reviews when called for (the new word of mouth), and if something is wrong, or you think it’s wrong (the customer is not always right) give constructive criticism and appreciate the hard work in this industry (Weekends, snowstorms, holidays, late nights),” said DeLellis. “If we all were more human, the world would be a lot better and it starts with us. And people are less human behind a screen. So, I figured I would say something to help the other establishments fighting the good fight. And if one really values the indie shops, then put your money and your words where you mouth is.”

Everyone is curious as to what becomes of the darling Johnny D’s home. Until then, they will continue serving up good food, tunes, and events. And reminding you to support local vendors. For upcoming shows, hours, and news, visit johnnyds.com.


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