Woken from hibernation, 4th Wall returns after brief hiatus

4th+Wall+general+manager+Diky+Melville+serving+two+patrons+behind+a+plexiglass+divider.

Photo: Dana Gerber

4th Wall general manager Diky Melville serving two patrons behind a plexiglass divider.

By Camilo Fonseca, Assistant News Editor

From behind a large plexiglass divider, bartender Emmanuel Parent looked around the 4th Wall Restaurant & Bar, gesturing to the sparsely-populated booths and barstools on Tuesday.

“It’s not ideal, but we do have some people [already],” Parent said. “All we need is the word to spread a little bit. It absolutely is better than being closed.”

The restaurant reopened its doors on Feb. 2, bringing drinking and dining back to the Tremont St. establishment after a two-and-a-half week hiatus, originally planned to extend through February.

Like many businesses around Boston, the 4th Wall’s temporary closure was brought on by the economic pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 9:30 p.m. curfew instated statewide on Nov. 6. These limitations forced the bar to restrict its hours and cut its occupancy levels before closing indefinitely on Jan. 16

The shuttering of the location was never expected to be permanent, owner Diky Melville said—instead, it was a “hibernation” period, allowing the bar to save on operating costs until more favorable economic circumstances returned. On Jan. 25, just over a week after closing, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker rescinded the state’s 9:30 p.m. curfew on restaurants.

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Although the reopened 4th Wall will now serve patrons until its original 2 a.m. closing time, Melville said even the return to normal operating hours would not immediately bring business back to normal levels.

“It’s probably going to take a few weeks to build it up and let people know that we’re back, and open late every night,” Melville said. “We’re hoping for a strong start, but we’ve anticipated that it could be a little bit slow.”

With the curfew rolled back, the restaurant will operate from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week, for the foreseeable future. Though Melville said late-night diners would hopefully make up for lost revenue, he was cautious to return the bar to its original opening time of 11:00 a.m.

“With it being slow—and wintertime—it’s just not the right time to force that,” Melville said.

Tuesday’s reopening saw a lukewarm turnout. Parent said by 10 p.m., only about 15 people had entered the bar. Nevertheless, “Manny,” as a customer jovially called him, said he remained optimistic.

“Today was very slow,” Parent said. “But most people are nightcrawlers, so they don’t come out until later. Now that we’re open until 2 a.m., we might get a late night-crowd. We may not. It’s just the first day. I know it’ll get better.”

All Boston-area restaurants have been operating under a 25 percent occupancy limit since November; Melville noted that, for the 4th Wall, this means only about 15 people in the bar at a time. However, Gov. Baker announced Thursday that the restrictions would be eased to 40 percent capacity—or, for the 4th Wall, 24 people—effective Feb. 8.

Melville said he had reason to hope for increased business in the next several weeks, as compared to earlier in the pandemic.

“It’ll warm up a little bit, and people will feel more comfortable [going out] as more people get vaccinated,” Melville said. “There’s not a lot of people offering food until 2 a.m., which was a big niche for us before, so hopefully that will help us take back our place in the neighborhood.”

While Melville said the 4th Wall’s primary clientele is Tufts Medical Center and Massachusetts Department of Transportation staff, Emerson students are no strangers to the establishment. 

Parent was optimistic about students returning to the 4th Wall, saying he hoped they would take advantage of its reopening. 

“Bring them down,” Parent said, laughing. “We loved it before [the pandemic], when [Emerson students] would come in during [their] breaks, in between classes, and have a bite to eat—‘chew and screw’. It’s no nonsense, you know what I mean? I’ve worked plenty of other places where [the clientele is] a headache, but this place doesn’t have that vibe.”

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