Doyle’s Cafe “Can’t Afford” to Stay Open in Jamaica Plain
The legendary politico pub, the first place to pour Sam Adams Boston Lager, will close this year.
A 137-year-old bar cemented in Boston history will close later this year, as the owner “can’t afford to stay here any more.” The Boston Globe reports that Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica Plain is poised to sell its liquor license to a new location of Davio’s, and will shutter within the next couple months.
“It’s very sad,” Doyle’s owner Gerry Burke Jr. told the Globe, as if speaking for all of us who are watching our favorite neighborhood bars disappear. “But the real estate in JP is as high as it’s going to get and I can’t afford to stay here any more.” Mass. Land Records show the Burke family owns the Washington Street property; Ed Burke, Gerry’s uncle, is the deed-holder. Gerry owns the business and its liquor license, a Doyle’s representative says via email.
Doyle’s is among the 35 best bars in Boston for its prominent place in the city’s history (and its late-night pizza), and it has earned a few Best of Boston awards through the years. In 1998, Boston magazine editors wrote, “Doyle’s is to Boston what the Elaine’s is to New York. Good eats, great atmosphere, and a who’s who of Bostonians both proper and not.” Elaine’s was an A-list hangout in New York City which shuttered in 2011.
Today, Doyle’s is perhaps best known as an extension of the Sam Adams tour. The bar was the first place to pour Boston Lager, after a young Jim Koch showed up and asked them to in 1984. For years, it was the first place to get Sam Adams’ experimental new brews. Before Samuel Adams had its own taproom, it launched a partnership with the Washington Street pub to shuttle tourists there for a pint after their tours of the Jamaica Plain brewery. A shuttle still runs between the two beer destinations every Friday, Saturday, and Monday.
But Doyle’s history dates back much farther than that. First opened in 1882, it has hosted legions of political figures over the decades, including then-U.S. Senator John F. Kerry; and Ted Kennedy, who helped dedicate a private events-room at the bar to his maternal grandfather, John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988.
The bar has had several Hollywood cameos over the years, too, including in the films Mystic River and Patriots Day.
Brothers Ed, Bill, and Gerry Burke purchased the bar from the Doyle family in 1969, according to the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. Previously, the Burkes’ grandparents owned and operated a bar called Rossmore Tavern. “Burkes have been serving beer in Jamaica Plain since 1918,” Billy told the Boston Herald in 2001.
“I grew up here and I’ve had a wonderful childhood. It’s been my identity for as long as I can remember,” Gerry Burke tells the Globe today. “It’s a terrible thing and I’m as sad as I can be.”
Davio’s, a Boston-based Italian steakhouse chain with outposts in Manhattan, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Irvine, Calif., and elsewhere, plans to buy Doyle’s all-alcohol license for a cool $445,000, according to the Globe. The permit will fuel a forthcoming 15,000-square-foot location headed for the 50 Liberty at Fan Pier in the Seaport.
The sale is contingent on a licensing board hearing coming up on Sept. 18. Burke doesn’t have a closing date in mind; “we probably have a month or maybe two,” he said.
Go pay your respects, Boston. Cheers, Doyle’s.
3484 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-2345, doylescafeboston.com.
This post was updated Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 9:45 a.m. to clarify the Burke family ownership structure of the business and property, and also to correct the address of the forthcoming Davio’s Seaport location.