Barbara Lynch downsizes restaurant group, closing three eateries and selling two more

Restaurants

Menton, Sportello, and Drink in Fort Point will all close, Lynch announced.

Chef Barbara Lynch in 2017.
Suzanne Kreiter/Boston Globe

High-profile restaurateur Barbara Lynch announced a major “reorganization” of her Massachusetts eateries Friday, with three restaurants set to close and two more ready to be sold.

Lynch, the mind behind acclaimed restaurants such as No. 9 Park and Menton, was accused last year of fostering a toxic workplace culture. Her restaurant group, the Barbara Lynch Collective, was also sued by former employees claiming that tips were diverted away from staff illegally. 

In a statement published in The Boston Globe, the group said it would immediately shutter Menton, Sportello, and Drink. The three restaurants are located alongside one another on Congress Street in the Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston. 

The Butcher Shop and Stir, both located in the South End, will be sold to “former protégés” of Lynch, according to the statement. No. 9 Park on Beacon Hill, B&G Oysters in the South End, and The Rudder in Gloucester will remain open. 

Lynch said in the statement that she will now focus expansion efforts on the North Shore.

“Boston is no longer the same place where I opened seven restaurants over the last 25 years. Properties have been flipped and flipped and the landlords just want the rents that only national chains can sustain,” she said. 

The restaurant group called out New York-based Acadia Realty Trust, the landlord of the three Fort Point restaurants that are closing. A total of 100 staffers will lose their jobs because of the closures, the group said. 

The three Fort Point restaurants have paid $88,000 in monthly rent to Acadia since 2018, according to the statement. These “high rents” stayed the same despite a lack of functioning air conditioning last summer, water supply issues, and damage from burst pipes and flooding that affected some of the wine cellars at Menton and Drink, the group said. 

“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,” Chief Operations Officer Lorraine Tomlinson-Hall said in the statement. “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.”

Acadia did not immediately return a request for comment Friday afternoon. 

Tomlinson-Hall, a “turnaround specialist,” was hired last fall to take a “deep dive” into the restaurant group’s finances. She found that “prior restaurant operational managers whom Lynch had entrusted had failed to respond to post-pandemic realities,” according to the statement. 

“Tomlinson-Hall tightened the belt and implemented business development strategies that have proved quite successful. But her recovery plan fell on deaf ears with the Congress Street landlords,” the statement said. 

Those who worked with Lynch accused her of being routinely intoxicated at work, which led to instances of unwanted touching, threats of violence, and lashing out at staff and guests, the Globe reported in April.

Last year, The Butcher Shop closed for a “summer break,” but remained dark well into the fall. Lynch said at the time that staff there had been redeployed to other restaurants during the break. In addition, the city’s denial of a full liquor license limited “flexibility and ability to keep up with local trends.”

Lynch, a South Boston native, rose to prominence after overcoming sexual assault and alcoholism within her family. Her Boston restaurants have drawn widespread acclaim, and she opened her first restaurant in more than a decade, The Rudder, early last year. 

“As an employer, Lynch has taken pride in pioneering the practice of paying employees salaries and offering medical benefits, education, and even mental health counseling in an industry known for a lack of work-life balance,” the statement released this week said. “Even when the restaurants were closed because of COVID, many Congress Street employees were receiving their full salaries and the company footed the full rent that was due.”