August 24, 2023

Sad news about CloverBBY

Our Clover restaurant at Copley Square, the one we call CloverBBY (Back Bay) is closing immediately.

I’m sad and really shook up, and just bummed. This is the second Clover we’ve ever closed, the first was in Brookline Village. That one was peaceful. This one is violent and really stressful.

We signed the lease for CloverBBY in 2019, taking over from a failed outpost of Minigrow by Honeygrow, a chain from Philadelphia, that had opened just 9 months earlier. The space was newly renovated, our neighbor Dig Inn (now Dig) was doing $5m a year in sales (or so we’d been told) and we all expected this to rocket to be our busiest, highest volume restaurant ever. Honeygrow had spent a ton of money renovating the space, so our work was light. And we opened for business in Dec 2019. We all know what happened a few months later. Bad timing.

Fast forward. We’ve lost about $350k/ year operating this restaurant the past few years. The rent? Coincidentally, $350k/ year.

And taxes to the City of Boston? They doubled during the pandemic and are over $60k/ year!

And our sales? The lowest of any restaurant we currently operate or have ever operated.

Our Landlord there is the Community Church of Boston. I started talking to them about solutions a year ago. We’ve tried to find other interested parties last fall. I appealed again and again. In March we offered the Church an alternative tenant, a national operator who wanted the space. The Church didn’t respond. We stopped paying rent to try to force the conversation. I reached out to everybody I knew there to try to discuss some changes to our rent agreements, I offered to speak to their Board; they didn’t take me up on that.

They finally got back to me in May with a legal notice from a lawyer. Since then it’s been an exhausting process with their lawyers only willing to talk to our lawyers. Very combative. Very sad to see the Community Church wasn’t willing to work with us on a solution that would help support the work we’re trying to do. And really scary for me and others involved. Legal stuff is not fun at all.

We’re shutting down this location permanently, starting immediately. It’s sad for me to see this location go. And it’s really sad to see up close and personal something I’ve heard about: Landlords using the courts and contracts that were signed pre-pandemic to drain local operators. This impacts everybody. It makes our cities less vibrant. It benefits large chains who have huge war chests. It’s not very human. But it’s entirely legal.

It makes me appreciate even more the landlords who are working with us, helping us survive the aftermath of the pandemic. I’ll name some names here. Stacey with Boston Properties has been outstanding. Harvard has helped us again and again. Our landlord at our Central Square location, Michael, is an amazing person. Our landlord at CloverFIN, (near South Station), has helped us in all sorts of ways they didn’t have to, and we’re only open there today because of their kind efforts. Our Newtonville landlord is trying to help us out, as is our landlord at Assembly Row. Thank you all so much.

All of the staff from CloverBBY still have their jobs and will be joining the teams at other restaurants.

And if you’re a customer of CloverBBY, first, thank you for stopping in these past few years. We love making food for you. Another Clover is just down Boylston inside the Prudential Center, and we hope to see you there. (And if you can’t make the trip, we are available on DoorDash and UberEats.)

I still hope to work to find a peaceful solution with the Community Church of Boston but it’s a situation in which they have a lot of power and I have little.

This is a bummer of a story to share, but it’s part of our journey now.

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