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Boston Chef Barbara Lynch shutters three restaurants, sells another two

Boston Chef Barbara Lynch shutters three restaurants, sells another two

The concepts Menton, Drink and Sportello shared a building on Congress Street in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood. |Photo: Googlemaps.

Boston restaurateur Barbara Lynch on Friday announced the closure of three restaurants and the sale of two more to former employees as part of a reorganization of her restaurant group.

Closing permanently on Friday were the concepts Menton, Sportello and Drink in Fort Point, which is impacting about 100 workers. In an emailed statement, the Barbara Lynch Collective blamed the closures on an “uncooperative landlord.”

The restaurants The Butcher Shop and Stir are under a sale agreement to “former protégés” of Lynch, though the buyers were not identified. Those restaurants are also closed.

The move leaves the flagship No. 9 Park on Beacon Hill, as well as the concepts B&G Oysters in the South End, and The Rudder in Gloucester, operated by the group.

Last year, both The New York Times and the Boston Globe published investigations that revealed a toxic culture at Lynch’s restaurants. The reports were brought to light in part after the drug-overdose deaths of two chefs, after which many workers resigned.

Some in the reports described alcohol abuse and verbal and physical abuse by Lynch, who was one of the first female chefs to gain national prominence and is often credited with helping to shape Boston’s fine-dining scene. In reports, Lynch has vehemently denied the claims.

In March 2023, some workers filed a lawsuit alleging tip theft, a charge the company has also denied.

In the statement, the group said turnaround specialist Lorraine Tomlinson-Hall was hired last fall as chief operating officer. After diving into the finances for the eight restaurants, she found that “prior restaurant operational managers whom Lynch had entrusted had failed to respond to post-pandemic realities.”

Tomlinson-Hall “tightened the belt and implemented business development strategies that have proved successful,” the statement said. “But her recovery plan fell on deaf ears” with landlords Acadia Realty Trust, which owned the properties for Menton, Sportello and Drink.

“We have done everything possible to avoid putting these creative, dedicated, hard-working people out of jobs, but had no choice when a working solution with the landlord wasn’t ‘agreeable’ to them,” Tomlinson-Hall said in the statement.

Acadia Realty Trust did not immediately respond to requests for more information.

Lynch added in the statement that the Boston market that she has operated in for 25 years has changed. “Properties have been flipped and flipped and the landlords just want the rents that only national chains can sustain,” said Lynch.

She plans to focus future expansion on the North Shore, where the newest concept, The Rudder, opened last June.

The trio of restaurants that closed shared a building in Fort Point, a neighborhood that when Lynch first opened there was “warehouses and surface parking lots,” according to the statement.

Drink, an artisanal cocktail bar, first opened there in 2008, along with Sportello, which is described as an Italian version of a classic diner. Menton opened in 2010 as a modern fine-dining restaurant, which became a Relais & Chateaux property and earned acclaim as one of the best new restaurants of the year at the time.

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