Grafton to Buy Grille, Bar to Close Tomorrow

The embattled Crimson Sports Grille filed an application May 23 with the Cambridge License Commission to sell its business for $250,000 to Grafton, Inc., the company that owns the Temple Bar and the recently closed Grafton Street restaurant.

According to the Grille's lawyer, James J. Rafferty, the sale agreement was "directly related" to recent disciplinary action against the bar taken by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) and Cambridge License Commission (CLC). The Grille, which has a long history of violations, will close its operations and surrender its liquor license tomorrow morning, when its 18-day state license suspension for six counts of serving alcohol to minors takes effect.

If the CLC approves the transfer, which Richard V. Scali, its Executive Director, said was likely due to Grafton's "good reputation," Grafton would open a new restaurant in the Grille's 59 JFK Street space as early as late August, according to owner Patrick Lee. Grafton still plans to reopen its original Grafton Street restaurant in the space formerly occupied by the Bow and Arrow Pub at 1 Bow St.

Scali said that the Grille's record of violations would not be passed on to the new owners.

Rafferty won a one-week stay of the ABCC suspension so that his appeal could be heard in Middlesex County Superior Court, and the bar remained open throughout last week.

The day after the transfer application was filed, the CLC found the Grille in violation again for serving alcohol to a 20-year-old Boston University (B.U.) student on a Mar. 23 sting, but decided not to impose further sanction on the bar until it had heard the petition to transfer the liquor license.

Lee said he called Paul C. McCarthy, the owner of the Grille, about three months ago to inquire about purchasing the establishment, and that negotiations for the sale were ongoing when the ABCC and CLC found it in violation this spring. Scali said when the ABCC announced the suspensions that a number of potential buyers had called him asking about the availability of the Grille's license, but Rafferty then denied that a sale was in the works. The two businesses signed a purchase and sale agreement on May 4 but waited nearly two weeks to file their application.

Rafferty said today that he understood McCarthy had planned to sell the bar within the next few years, but that the process was expedited as the pressure from city and state authorities grew. Lee said that he thought McCarthy had been actively interested in selling the establishment for a year, and that Grafton's motivation in purchasing the Grille "was to open a place as soon as we could." Before the transfer application was filed, Lee said that the company's finances would be in jeopardy as long as Grafton Street, which is expected to reopen in mid-fall, remained closed.

Grafton told the CLC that the new restaurant would be named the Archway Tavern, but Lee said that was a temporary name for the duration of the hearings. The company has not decided what to name the new restaurant, which Lee said would serve a "casual menu" and put tables on an outdoor patio. Lee said that Grafton planned extensive renovations that he hoped would begin in mid-June.

Rafferty said that although Grafton's new restaurant would include a bar, he thought it would probably draw an "older crowd" than the Grille. In March, he said that the Grille was "one of the last college bars in town."

According to Scali, the CLC will hear the application on June 19 and announce its decision on June 28, and pending its approval the ABCC would then require four to six weeks to render its own decision on the transfer.

--Staff writer Dan K. Rosenheck can be reached at rosenhec@fas.harvard.edu.

--Staff writer Daniela J. Lamas contributed to the reporting of this article. She can be reached at lamas@fas.harvard.edu.