Feb 17, 2023 - Food and Drink

The classic Boston restaurants that never recovered

I miss you so much. Photo: Mike Deehan/Axios

While most of Boston’s iconic restaurants recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, a few beloved spots closed and never reopened.

Why it matters: COVID-19 took a heavy toll on foot traffic, as remote and hybrid work kept many commuters home. Downtown restaurants were hit particularly hard.

  • Pair that with price hikes for food, energy, labor and credit card processing fees, and it makes sense that some of the city’s grand old restaurants aren’t reopened.

1. Pour House in the Back Bay

Known to generations of hungry Bostonians for its dirt-cheap menu and half-off specials, the Pour House remains empty along Boylston Street, but that may change soon according to building owner Charles Talanian.

What's new: Talanian told Axios there are preliminary plans to reopen the space under a new name.

  • He said he's signed on to a letter of intent with a local veteran restaurant operator to reinvent the space as a "new concept," while retaining some of the Pour House's collection of decorative memorabilia.

2. Jacob Wirth in the Theater District

The century-and-a-half old Stuart Street legend closed after a fire in 2018. Then the pandemic stymied plans to reopen it.

The latest: Two investors who have bought up other classic dives in recent years bought the building that once held the classic German beer hall and bratwurst palace for $5.27 million, Universal Hub reported earlier this month.

  • Bars that the pair have previously bought have either been saved, like the Theater District's Tam, or had their buildings converted for other use — like the Beacon Hill Pub (soon to be a fancier restaurant) and Cleveland Circle's Mary Ann's (which could become a dispensary.)

3. Marliave in Downtown Crossing

The restaurant in the heart of downtown had planned to come back during the rash of business reopenings in the fall of 2020, but the doors have stayed locked.

  • The classic Bosworth Street location, the site of too many first dates and wedding proposals to count, looks how it did in March 2020.
  • Former executive chef Barnett Harper will debut the soon-to-open Hue in the Copley Square Hotel.

💬 What they're saying: "New places are great to have open, but anytime you can have a historic place in operation, everyone's better for it," Massachusetts Restaurant Association president Stephen Clark tells Axios.

👀 What we’re watching: There's more demand than ever for new restaurants, and the industry has broadly seen sales return.

  • But profit margins for restaurants are shrinking, with only 6% of operators saying they're making more money than before the pandemic.

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