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Citing rising rents, Harvard Square pizzeria The Just Crust will officially close after being shuttered for “renovations” since July.
The Brattle St. pizzeria was known for its variety of signature thin crust pizzas. While the restaurant has had a sign pasted to its front door since July 15 telling patrons it would be closing for renovations, the owners announced this week they have ultimately chosen not to renew their lease.
Shannon E. Liss-Riordan ’90, co-owner of The Just Crust, wrote in an emailed statement that she and her husband have been weighing their options since July and only recently decided to give up their license in advance of the December deadline.
“With the high rent in Harvard Square that would be going up higher, we decided not to renew the lease and closed the location,” Liss-Riordan wrote. “We have enjoyed operating The Just Crust and greatly appreciate all the support the Cambridge community has given us over these past four years.”
Other local businesses have faced similar problems with high rents—assessed property values in Harvard Square have nearly doubled over the last five years.
Liss-Riordan, who is also a graduate of Harvard Law School, decided to open The Just Crust after she represented employees of the restaurant’s predecessor, Upper Crust Pizzeria, in a labor abuse case. When Upper Crust’s leases were auctioned off in late 2012, Liss-Riordan and her husband spearheaded a fundraising effort to purchase its Harvard Square location and open The Just Crust together in 2013.
The Just Crust was partially employee-owned, which Liss-Riordan said at the time was a change she wanted to make after being involved in Upper Crust’s legal battle. Her new restaurant’s name and logo—of an aproned worker—stood in “poetic juxtaposition” to the Upper Crust’s logo of a “dandy man in a top hat riding a bicycle,” according to The Just Crust’s website. The Just Crust also emphasized its “progressive business model” where employees received shares of the profits and ingredients were sourced from regional farmers and producers.
“It’s an exciting new way of supporting the workers we represent,” Liss-Riordan said at the restaurant’s opening. “I’m really hoping that we can make a success of it because I’m hoping this can serve as a model.”
Some Harvard students were sad to see the pizzeria go, citing its tasty thin crust pizza and sit-down atmosphere as a differentiating trait from other pizza shops in the Square.
Brandon N. Wachs ’18 said that he was surprised and disappointed to hear The Just Crust was closing, adding that he used to grab a slice from The Just Crust once every few weeks when walking from the Yard back to the Quad.
“I never thought that they were really threatened to close financially,” Wachs said. “But at the same time, Market’s left, the Liquiteria left, so obviously that street over there, at least that part of the Square, has been tough for business, and rents are probably pretty high.”
Sali E. Yi ’18 said The Just Crust was her favorite Square pizza shop. She added that it was “pretty embarrassing” how often she went—typically once a week. She appreciated that she could sit down and eat, whereas most other nearby pizza places were grab-and-go.
“I feel like each of the pizza places in the Square hits a different spot—Pinocchio’s I feel like everyone goes to after a late night or a really stressful time like reading period or something,” Yi said. “But when I’m looking for a really nice, high quality pizza that I can share with a friend, I definitely would go to Just Crust,” she added.
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