Chef and restaurateur Barbara Lynch, who faced scrutiny in the last year when allegations that she harassed staff at her restaurants became public, announced today, January 5, that she is closing down the majority of her restaurants in Boston. Lynch’s restaurant group, the Barbara Lynch Collective, cited rent increases and failed landlord negotiations as primary reasons for the closures in a press release.
Fine dining destination Menton, Italian restaurant Sportello, and seminal cocktail bar Drink are closed, effective immediately, according to the release. Two more Lynch spots that have already been closed, Stir and the Butcher Shop in the South End, are being sold to two unnamed “former protégés.” Lynch is hanging on to Beacon Hill mainstay No. 9 Park, seafood spot B&G Oysters in the South End, and her newest restaurant, the Rudder, in Gloucester, which opened last year.
The restaurant group’s chief operating officer, Lorraine Tomlinson-Hall, who was hired last September to help stabilize the company, pinned the closures on increasing rents, inflexible landlords at Acadia Reality, and alleged missteps by “prior restaurant operational managers” who “had failed to respond to post-pandemic realities,” according to the release.
“We’re beyond disappointed that Acadia apparently would rather force out long-term tenants paying over market rates and push a hundred people out of work because they think they can get Seaport District rates,” Tomlinson-Hall said in a statement. “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.”
The restaurant group has also been under fire over the past year due to Lynch’s alleged leadership failings. The New York Times and the Boston Globe published separate investigations last spring in which over a dozen employees alleged that Lynch had displayed physically and verbally aggressive behavior toward staff in her restaurants for years, including at the now-closed Menton, Drink, and the Butcher Shop. Lynch denied the allegations at the time the reports were published. Lynch was also sued by former employees in March 2023 for allegedly withholding tips during the pandemic; Lynch has also denied those allegations.
In a press conference on Friday, Tomlinson-Hall said that when she joined the restaurant group in September, the three Fort Point restaurants (Menton, Drink, and Sportello) were three months behind on rent, the Boston Globe reports. The three restaurants had been collectively paying $88,000 per month in rent since 2018, despite ongoing building issues like water damage in Drink and Menton’s wine cellar, according to the group’s press release on the restructuring.
“Boston is no longer the same place where I opened seven restaurants over the last 25 years,” Lynch said in a statement in the release. “Properties have been flipped and flipped and the landlords just want the rents that only national chains can sustain.”
Sportello, Menton, and Drink, all located on Fort Point’s Congress Street, had a large impact on Boston’s dining scene over the decades that the restaurants were in business. Menton has received both local and national accolades, including best new restaurant nods from Bon Appetit and Esquire when it opened in 2010. Drink, the cocktail bar where bartenders create custom drinks based on diner preferences, is credited as one of the bars that helped define the modern American cocktail scene when it opened in 2008.
According to the press release, Lynch is now focusing any future expansion plans on the North Shore, where her newest restaurant the Rudder is located.