Barbara Lynch’s Acclaimed Fort Point Restaurants Have Closed Abruptly

The restaurateur is also selling two South End venues while retaining ownership of No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, and the Rudder.

Barbara Lynch. / Photo by Michael Prince

Boston chef and restaurateur Barbara Lynch’s restaurant group, the Barbara Lynch Collective, announced the abrupt closure of three award-winning venues today, citing an “uncooperative landlord”: restaurants Menton and Sportello and cocktail bar Drink, resulting in 100 lost jobs. All three restaurants were located on Congress Street in Fort Point; Drink and Sportello opened in 2008, followed by Menton, one of the city’s highest-end dining destinations, in 2010. Each played an integral role in the development of the neighborhood.

In addition to these closures, Lynch is selling the leases, licenses, and assets from South End restaurant the Butcher Shop and event and class space Stir (both currently closed) “to former protégés.” She is retaining ownership in her flagship restaurant No. 9 Park on Beacon Hill, as well as B&G Oysters in the South End and her new Gloucester restaurant the Rudder.

The closures and restructuring come at a time of turmoil for the restaurant group. In April 2023, The New York Times and The Boston Globe each published stories alleging widespread workplace toxicity under Lynch, citing more than a dozen interviews with former staffers who made claims regarding years of verbal and physical harassment. Tensions reached an all-time high in March 2023, the stories alleged, following two employee deaths in roughly two months, with staffers criticizing Lynch’s response. Also around this time, two former employees filed a class-action lawsuit against Lynch, alleging that she diverted tips to an employee food-and-supply pickup program in May and June 2020. Under Massachusetts law, restaurant waitstaff can be paid a tipped minimum wage, which is lower than standard minimum wage, but tips or their employer must make up the difference. The lawsuit argued that the employees were paid below standard minimum wage and thus entitled to their share of those tips.

In response to the April stories, Lynch provided a statement expressing that she wished she had “had the capacity to have handled [her employees’ deaths] better as a leader and as a friend” but dismissed allegations of workplace abuse as “scurrilous accusations from former employees.” Later that month, she opened her newest restaurant, the Rudder, in Gloucester. Soon after, the Butcher Shop in the South End closed for a summer break and did not reopen, and the Barbara Lynch Collective brought on Lorraine Tomlinson-Hall as chief operating officer.

Today’s announcement, which describes Tomlinson-Hall as “a turnaround specialist,” notes that she has “tightened the belt and implemented business development strategies that have proved quite successful” across the restaurant group, such as a “hugely successful” patisserie pop-up at Menton and a “working partnership with a luxury jeweler for private events.”

These efforts were part of a recovery plan aimed at squaring up with the landlord of the Congress Street properties, Acadia Realty Trust, following three months of non-payment of rent by the Collective’s former management, Tomlinson-Hall said in a follow-up press conference on January 5, noting that she came onboard September 1, 2023, and began to negotiate with the landlord several days later. Her plan would have gotten the landlord repaid and the company back on track by September 2024, she said, but she described the negotiations as “frustrating” and “one-sided.”

Since 2018, the monthly rent for the three restaurants was $88,000, per the Barbara Lynch Collective’s press release, which alleges that “the high rents persisted despite the fact that the Congress Street restaurants had no functioning air conditioning last summer after someone turned off the water tower, and damages from burst pipes and flooding affected Drink and Menton’s wine cellar.”

“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,” said Tomlinson-Hall via press release. “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.”

Representatives for Acadia were not immediately available for comment.

In the press conference, Tomlinson-Hall noted that Menton head chef Andrew Simonich will move over to the No. 9 Park team and bring some other staffers with him, and there may be jobs for some other employees at the restaurants that remain open.

Lynch plans to focus any future expansion on the North Shore. “Boston is no longer the same place where I opened seven restaurants over the last 25 years,” she said via the press release. “Properties have been flipped and flipped and the landlords just want the rents that only national chains can sustain.”

Gift cards for the closed restaurants will be honored at No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, and the Rudder.