Ahead of the Beat

As Patrick Lyons prepares to open the doors to two new Back Bay restaurants, the social mogul reflects on the evolution of the city’s dining and nightlife scene.

Meanwhile, the late-’90s dot-com boom meant the rest of Boston was living large, at least relative to the recession that preceded it. More restaurants opened, confident that they’d land an expense-account clientele. Barbara Lynch, Ming Tsai, and Ken Oringer moved to the fore. It was a second Gilded Age.

And then the dot-com bubble burst.

THE LESSON: Boston had a bigger taste for glamour than anyone had imagined. “But,” Lyons notes, “it was glamorous on someone else’s terms” — which means the pendulum was bound to swing back.

THE ERA: The Aughts

A.K.A. Bust, Boom, Bust

THE MAJOR VENUES: Scampo, Game On, the Bleacher Bar, Abe & Louie’s, Gaslight

THE PLAYERS: The corporate-card class, nesting urbanites, prodigal suburbanites, sports fans

THE SCENE: “They left so fast,” Lyons says now of the international crowd that split town after 9/11. “I’m not talking weeks or months. I’m talking hours.” All that excess, gone in days. The city was too preoccupied with larger concerns to pay much attention, but Lyons noticed. “Nothing rushed into the vacuum they created,” he says. “We came back to who we were as Bostonians. We went back to drinking Bud.”

Meanwhile, Lyons continued to extract himself from the club business and devote his time to bars and restaurants. “At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to make a great hamburger than it is to take a 200,000-square-foot black room and make that vital,” he says. As Boston became a title town, he found a thriving market in sports-themed bars like Game On and the Bleacher Bar.

He opened his four Summer Shacks with White, then La Verdad with Oringer, and Scampo with Shire. He closed Avalon and Axis and ultimately leased the space to the new House of Blues, which opened in 2009.

  • Joani

    Amazing article. I knew Pat back in 1979, when I was there for the summer and then later when I returned in 1980′s to live and attend school. While there I worked with his brother, Mike, handing out promotional items for RJ Reynolds. Pat, and even Mike, always amazed me with their keen business sense. Kudo’s to them. Pat is your reading this, I think you are one of the brightest most observant business men I know.