When the Boston Marathon was attacked on April 15, the bombs and subsequent investigation and cleanup caused more than 40 temporary restaurant closures. While most reopened in the two weeks following the attack, Forum, where one of the bombs was detonated, remained closed until two weeks ago. The restaurant is currently open for dinner only, and expects to announce plans for resuming lunch and brunch service soon. Forum's general manager, Chris Loper, spent some time talking to Eater about how things have been going since the reopening, how staff coped with the temporary closure, and the challenges posed by needing to change chefs shortly before resuming operations.
Tell us about the days since your reopening.
It's had its challenges on the way, but it's good to be back open. It's been going great. Our chef [Dan Schroeder] is fairly new. He's just getting things together in the kitchen so we've decided to be open just for dinner for the time being so we could hone all of our skills and make sure we're providing the best service possible. We haven't been taking reservations at the moment, just walk-ins. So we've been able to control things and give guests the best experience that we can. It's been busy. Guests have been happy. Things have been good.
Can you compare re-opening Forum to any past openings you may have done?
My background is in country clubs. I've done large renovations before, but never a restaurant opening. Any opening comes with its challenges with new staff and things like that. We were fortunate in this opening to have some of our staff come back, so it's possible there have actually been fewer speed bumps than when it originally opened. Including cooks, bartenders, and others, we retained about a third of the staff. The entire management team is back.
What was your returning staff doing for income the last four months?
Some found other positions in the city. We had lots of employees who are in college and went home over the summer. A few went to some of ownership's other locations, specifically The Tap in Faneuil Hall. For the most part, people either found work, we helped them find work, or they were going home anyway.
Until very shortly before reopening, you were slated to have Myers + Chang alum Matthew Barros as your chef. Can you tell us what happened there?
I'm not sure where Matthew is working at this point. It was something where he just decided to move on. I think it was maybe a little bit overwhelming.
Has that been a challenge having to change chefs right before the re-open?
It has been. With Dan, I brought in someone I had worked with for a number of years, so the transition was fairly seamless. But it did put him behind the 8 ball a little bit with getting the staff that he needed to open a restaurant that was going to be fairly busy when we reopened. It's had its challenges, but so far so good.
How many people have you been seeing on a busy night?
Our first weekend, we probably did 150 a night. Since then, it's been somewhere between 75 and 100. Fairly steady. When we open the doors, the bar fills up very quickly and stays full most of the night. On slower days of the week, we're just focusing on our downstairs space.
What has it been like — especially for those of you who were there the day of the attacks — to be back in the space?
It's great to be back to work. We're really just excited to be able to do what we do. The challenges will be the guests coming in wanting to talk about that day [of the bombings]. For the most part, we've moved forward into a better space, figuratively and literally. We're very happy to have moved on from April 15. August 15 was a new date for us.
Living in the Back Bay, I've seen a good deal of tragedy-based tourism. Have you experienced any of that?
We have. It's one of those things. It can be a fishbowl from time to time with people looking in the windows and that kind of thing. I think though, with the redesign of the space, I think we're past that point. It's been a little bit surreal, but it's onward and upward from here.
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