It appears that Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar, a duo of acclaimed and beloved Kenmore Square restaurants from restaurateur Garrett Harker, have closed for good. A hearing notice on the City of Boston Licensing Board website indicates that both restaurants are seeking to transfer their liquor licenses to UMNVAG Kenmore, LLC. The Hawthorne — a sibling to Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar — was not listed on the hearing notice, but the Boston Globe recently reported that it too has closed. Island Creek Oyster Bar’s Burlington outpost remains open.
When a bar or restaurant seeks to transfer its liquor license to another entity (in the form of a sale, most commonly), it usually means that the bar or restaurant is closing. The hearing notice lists Michael Jammen as the prospective manager on both license transfer petitions. Jammen is a principal at UrbanMeritage, the real estate investment firm that owns Kenmore Row, a 36,000 square foot retail property inside the Hotel Commonwealth, including Eastern Standard, the Hawthorne, and Island Creek Oyster Bar.
The hearing notice appears to confirm some rumors that have been swirling for many months now. In May 2020, Harker posted a lengthy message on Eastern Standard’s Facebook page in honor of its 15th birthday, but it functioned almost as much as a goodbye as it did a celebration.
“But ES is something else currently,” Harker wrote. “It’s a line item on a landlord’s balance sheet and chances are they lack the vision to imagine it as anything else. It’s feeble PPP money in a bank account that will have to [be] given back. Right now it’s a memory.”
Rumors of a lease dispute surfaced before Harker granted the Globe an interview in which he confirmed that his trio of Kenmore Square gems were in trouble. From the Globe story in June 2020:
Harker had been in ongoing negotiations with UrbanMeritage, the real estate group that owns the Hotel Commonwealth’s retail properties, for several years. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve grown more contentious, and things are at such an impasse that Harker never opened the restaurants for takeout or al fresco meals...
...His landlords “don’t seem to acknowledge that there’s anything special about these restaurants,” Harker said in an interview with the Globe, his first since rumors began swirling about Eastern Standard’s future.
Harker and his partners ultimately received default letters from UrbanMeritage for all three restaurant leases. Eastern Standard partner Andrew Holden told the Globe that the restaurant could reopen in a different location, but he didn’t provide any details. Still, a glimmer of hope remains.
Eater has reached out to Harker and Jammen for comment, and will update this post as more information becomes available.
Update, February 19, 9 a.m.: The Boston Globe reported on February 18 that the Hawthorne is also closed, and that Eastern Standard could possibly reopen in a different location in the future. This post has been updated to include the new information.
• Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston’s Kenmore Square Plan to Transfer Their Licenses to UrbanMeritage [BRT]
• Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Hawthorne All Close, Leaving Gaping Hole in Kenmore Square and Many Patrons’ Hearts [BG]
• Eastern Standard and Its Kenmore Siblings Are in Trouble [EBOS]
• Eastern Standard, a Kenmore Square Stalwart, May Be Closing for Good [BG]