After Five Years, Grafton Shuts Its Doors

A simple, printed sign hangs in Grafton Street's darkened windows.

"Regretfully, we are forced to close our doors," the sign reads. "To our loyal patrons, we warmly thank you. This restaurant has been a great experience for us."

Grafton's patrons had one last chance to bid the bar a rowdy farewell before Saturday's quiet closing. Both Thursday and Friday night, lines for dinner seating extended out the door.

The mood was bittersweet Friday night as hordes of students and local residents crowded into the smoke-filled bar.

Arlington resident Nicole Gounaris brought about 15 friends and co-workers with her to wish Grafton Street farewell. Gounaris, sipping a margarita, says she was hit hard by the establishment's departure.

She said she planned to stay Friday night until the bar closed.

"It's just so sad. This place is so great," she says. "Their Long Island iced tea is the best in the city and the service is amazing. I'm definitely going to miss it."

BF: Moving On Out

On Saturday afternoon, Patrick Lee was getting ready to quietly close the doors for good on Grafton Street's prime 1280 Mass. Ave location.

"We're all pretty sad," Lee says, looking around his four-and-a-half year old bar and grille. "There are a lot of good memories here."

After months of wrangling with the building's owner, Grafton vacated its space this weekend to make way for renovations that will include the expansion of the neighboring Cambridgeport bank.

But Lee says Grafton Street is not gone for good.

He hopes to move into the 1 Bow Street building that previously housed the legendary Bow & Arrow Pub by the fall.

While Lee had feared that he would not have the financial capital to make the move, he says he is now fairly certain that Grafton will reopen.

He says he plans to begin construction on the new restaurant by July and hopes to open an expanded version of the beloved bar in time for the new school year.

Lee is philosophical as he contemplates the impending move.

"It feels like a real ending to me, but I guess you just have to look at it as a new beginning," he says.

BF: It's So Hard To Say Goodbye

Grafton Street's temporary departure will create a real void in the Square, says Cambridge resident Frank Maxwell.

"It's a shame. It's just unnecessary," Maxwell says. "There's a lack of establishments like this here where people can really enjoy themselves."

For Maxwell, the bar's 1280 Mass. Ave location will always hold a certain significance. He met his current girlfriend at Grafton Street.

"She asked me if I came here often," he laughs.

As they sipped their drinks Friday night, students-many holding cameras to immortalize a last night at 1280 Mass. Ave-said they would also miss being able to frequent the upscale bar.

Although the bar will reopen within six months, students worry about the potential impact on their weekend routine and the loss of Grafton Street as an option for senior bar this spring.

"With the [Crimson Sports] Grille on its way out, there won't be anything left in the Square," says Libby Shani '02. "What's going to be the next hot spot?"

She considered, and promptly vetoed, Daedalus and Casablanca as a few alternatives.

"There's just nothing else that's big enough," Shani says. "Harvard's losing a real social establishment."

Grafton Street employees say they wish they could have at least stayed through commencement.

"I just feel really bad for the kids who have gotten used to having this place around," says waiter Alex Kleinschmitt. "It's a good crowd of people and such a convenient, central spot. It's really become a big part of everyone's social life."

Diana Kim '01, who held her birthday at Grafton last year and comes to the bar about once a week, says she agrees.

"There are just very few bars like Grafton in the Square," she says.

But she says she trusts that students will be able to rebound from the temporarily loss of the bar.

"People are going to manage," Kim says.

BF: Last Call

The mood was quieter Saturday, as a few regular, older patrons and waiters spent the afternoon at the bar joking and reminiscing.

Grafton Street has become an integral part of Kiril S. Alexandrov's routine since its opening four and a half years ago. Alexandrov, the president of the Boston Book Review, often used to hold meetings at the bar.

"This is very much an extension of my office," Alexandrov says.

He contemplates the countless evenings he has spent looking out the Grafton Street windows.

"These are the windows of the world," he says, gesturing expansively. "Everybody we know would come through here. These windows are key."

He says he will miss the bar's little idiosyncrasies.

Alexandrov points to Widener library, visible through the window. He said he often sees thesis-writers run down from the Widener stacks to Grafton Street for a bit of "creative inspiration."

"All phases of life have taken place here," Alexandrov says.

He says that he and his friends will remain loyal to Grafton Street-refusing to frequent another bar until Grafton reopens.

"We're not going anywhere else in protest," Alexandrov says.

As the friends talk, the waiters begin to clean up.

Their relief at taking some time off from the high-pressure job is tempered by their sadness at having to leave co-workers who have become close friends.

They say they trust that the restaurant will reopen and hope to reunite in the fall-but say they know it won't be the same.

"It's bittersweet," says Hugh McGowan, who has been a waiter at Grafton Street since the restaurant's opening. An aspiring musician, McGowan says he plans to use the summer off to work on a record and travel to Ireland.

"It's really a drag for the owners, because they've built up a good restaurant once and now they're forced to go through it all again," he says.

The establishment is remarkable for the cohesiveness of its staff, McGowan says.

"I've met incredible, incredible people here-some of my best friends and a sweetheart as well," he says.

He promises that Grafton Street will return.

"I'm not worried that the whole spirit of the restaurant will be lost, McGowan says. "None of us are being cast out on the streets for good. We'll all be a unit again."