Barbara Lynch Closes Three of Her Boston Restaurants

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Barbara Lynch Closes Three of Her Boston Restaurants

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The restaurateur is also selling two South End venues but retaining ownership of No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters and The Rudder.

Barbara Lynch. / Photo by Michael Prince

Boston chef and restaurateur Barbara Lynch’s restaurant group, the Barbara Lynch Collective, today announced the abrupt closure of three award-winning eateries, citing an “uncooperative landlord”: restaurants Menton and Sportello and cocktail bar Drink, resulting in the loss of led to 100 jobs. All three restaurants were located on Congress Street in Fort Point; Drink and Sportello opened in 2008, followed in 2010 by Menton, one of the city’s most upscale restaurants. Both played an essential role in the development of the district.

In addition to these closures, Lynch is selling the leases, licenses and assets of South End restaurant The Butcher Shop and event and classroom space Stir (both currently closed) “to former protégés.” She retains her flagship restaurant No. 9 Park on Beacon Hill as well as B&G Oysters in the South End and their new Gloucester restaurant The Rudder.

The closures and restructuring come at a time of turmoil for the restaurant group. In April 2023, The New York Times and The Boston Globe each published reports of widespread workplace toxicity under Lynch, citing more than a dozen interviews with former employees who made allegations of years of verbal and physical harassment. According to the reports, tensions reached an all-time high in March 2023 after two employees died within about two months, with employees criticizing Lynch’s response. Around that time, two former employees also filed a class action lawsuit against Lynch, alleging that she diverted tips to an employee food and supply pickup program in May and June 2020. Under Massachusetts law, restaurant waiters can receive a minimum tipped wage that is less than the usual minimum wage, but tips or the employer must make up the difference. The lawsuit argued that the workers were paid below the standard minimum wage and were therefore entitled to their share of those tips.

In response to the April reports, Lynch issued a statement expressing that she wished she had “had the ability to deal with it [her employees’ deaths] “Better as a manager and as a friend,” but dismissed allegations of workplace abuse as “bizarre accusations from former employees.” She opened her newest restaurant, Rudder, in Gloucester later that month. Shortly thereafter, the South End butcher shop closed for a summer break and did not reopen, and the Barbara Lynch Collective brought in Lorraine Tomlinson-Hall as chief operating officer.

Today’s announcement, which describes Tomlinson-Hall as a “turnaround specialist,” says she has “tightened her belt and implemented business development strategies that have proven quite successful” across the restaurant group, such as a “hugely successful” patisserie pop-up in Menton and a “working partnership with a luxury jeweler for private events”.

Those efforts were part of a turnaround plan aimed at coming to terms with the Congress Street properties’ landlord, Acadia Realty Trust, after the collective’s previous management failed to pay rent for three months, Tomlinson-Hall said in a follow-up news conference At the January 5 conference, she noted that she came on board on September 1, 2023 and began negotiating with the landlord a few days later. Her plan would have ensured the landlord would have repaid its debts by September 2024 and put the company back on track, she said, but described the negotiations as “frustrating” and “one-sided”.

As of 2018, the monthly rent for the three restaurants was $88,000, according to the Barbara Lynch Collective’s press release, which claims that “high rents continued even though the Congress Street restaurants did not have working air conditioning last summer.” , after someone turned off the water. “Tower and damage from burst pipes and flooding affected Drink and Menton’s wine cellar.”

“We are extremely disappointed that Acadia appears to prefer to push out long-term tenants who pay above market rates and force hundreds of people out of work because they think they can get Seaport District rates,” Tomlinson-Hall said in a news release. “We did everything possible to avoid these creative, dedicated and hard-working people losing their jobs, but had no choice when a working solution with the landlord was not ‘acceptable’ to them.”

Acadia representatives were not immediately available for comment.

In the press conference, Tomlinson-Hall noted that Menton chef Andrew Simonich will be moving to Team No. 9 Park and bringing some other staff with him, and that there may be jobs for some other staff in the restaurants that are open.

Lynch plans to focus on the North Shore for future expansion. “Boston is no longer the place where I have opened seven restaurants over the last 25 years,” she said in the press release. “Properties have been flipped over and over again and landlords just want the rents that only national chains can maintain.”

Gift cards for the closed restaurants will be issued at no. 9 Park, B&G Oysters and The Rudder redeemed.