Locke-Ober owner says he refused to compromise and cater to the slob set

Brian McGrory reports owner David Ray decided to go out with his head held high rather than compromise his standards any further than making jackets optional.



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Good riddance

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one of the aspects of the Old Boston I'm happy to see dead and buried. Man that guy is full of himself.

old boston

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this clown is the same one who takes pictures as art museums
when he is told no pictures

Maybe there was a third path for Locke-Ober

Clearly what it was doing wasn't working. And Downtown Crossing's general malaise isn't helping. But I still think there's demand for this kind of beautiful old setting. If the owner had been bold enough to reimagine the menu concept with an innovative new chef, and perhaps expand the emphasis on the venue's criminally underused bar, there might have been a chance to woo younger diners. A shame.

Completely agree

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I see no reason why a "hey it's like Stoddards but with a long history" style business model wouldn't have worked. People have no problem paying for expensive food and drinks, but when your whole business model is predicated upon exclusion and outmoded traditions, you have no one to blame but yourself when it goes belly up


Younger folks have no problem with getting dressed up and dropping some cash if they food and atmosphere are worth it.


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There are a couple of places right in Downtown Crossing that could have been a good model. Stoddards, Curley's, and the Marliave are all going for the classy, formal, old world feel of Locke-Ober. The only difference is they don't have a stick up their ass. Also, their food/drinks are better and the prices are a little more moderate.


Exhibit A in Davis Square


sounds like that could have helped although as you mention the malaise of the area doesn't help much, especially Winter St (vs. the other streets that have the comparable restaurants have been named).

I've been to Locke-Ober once, went for lunch during restaurant week. I wouldn't say it was a memorable experience, but I guess it wasn't bad either. I recall finding bones in my fish which was unpleasant, but is an easy mistake I suppose. It seemed "old" inside, which I suppose is part of its character, but I think it could have been spruced up a bit without losing that. I didn't even know they had a bar, which from what I am reading now, seems like it was a good spot for cocktails.

It seems one of the biggest issues was the decline of the neighborhood though, not necessarily with the restaurant itself. No one wants to go out in an area that most avoid at night.

I agree

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In 137 years, Locke Obers has made adjustments before. David Ray has not been the only owner. He is simply the carrier of a legacy. There are still more formal dining places, that are successful, but they make adjustments to the times, and to quality. Locke Ober did not bring the quality of the experience of dining up to compete.
I find it very disheartening that he made the decision to close, rather than sell Locke Obers to someone else to make a go of it.
I can speculate that behind the scenes it is possible that he made the price of selling the name so prohibitive, that it would not be possible for someone to reasonably buy.
So, having worked there in the 1990's, and having a little Locke Obers in my heart, I am very saddened by what I consider to be a very selfish act. Locke Obers could have made some concessions to the times, and continued as it had for the last 137 years. This isn't the only time in their history that dining patterns have changed.

And this is good old Boston

And this is good old Boston Wellesley, Essex, Palm Beach,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
And the Cabots design jewelry?"


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Now I suppose one has to go to the Algonquin Club now if one wants hear black people still called "colored".

While I was no regular at

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While I was no regular at Locke-Ober, I feel that I should mention, in view of your comment, that I was first taken there by a laywer who happened to be black (and who seemed to be revered by the folks working there).

OK, then to qualify my comment

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I can attest to you that as recently as two years ago ( and many times over the past 30 years) I brought people to Locke Ober that still used that term.

Also, not once did you hear me say that about hearing any one on the staff of Locke Ober using that term.

Maybe the problem is with

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Maybe the problem is with your guests, and not the restaurant.

Well, why do you hang around,

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Well, why do you hang around, not to mention bring them to dinner, people who still speak in those terms?

I'd pick my friends more wisely.

you ain't been 'round these parts too long, have ya?

Mr. Off is a limo driver. These aren't his friends, they are paid freight.

If you want to be an effective troll, at least get to know the rest of us underbridge denizens a bit better first. Otherwise, your "flip" and "smart" comments come off as rather dim to say the least.

You shouldn't have to know

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You shouldn't have to know the biography of all posters to comment. The original post was vague at best.

Your comments are more troll-worthy than those who assumed that Mr. Off was taking his friends to dinner.

Go ahead then

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Just don't mind the regulars when they make fun of your moral scolding tone and idiot remarks that you think provide some important insight and all of that.

Sounds like that's more of a

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Sounds like that's more of a problem of whom you choose to associate yourself with rather than the restaurant.

Sounds like

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You haven't bothered to be back here long enough to figure out what dvdoff does for a living, Miki.

i've been on here 2 years

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i've been on here 2 years longer than dvdoff and i had the same reaction. I remember reading posts by a limo driver but seriously not everybody carries this stuff around in their head.

My sincere apologies...

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I should have clarified that in my post. And I'm a chauffeur...limo drivers are transient and generally the guys who just sit in their cars in the cold weather and wait for their clients to find them at the airport. They also have dull looking shoes and jackets with three weeks worth of wrinkles in the back. Thank you.

I'm sorry that I apparently misread your comment.

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My apologies for misreading your intial comment, but you can see why I might have done that, right? Your initial comment, "Now I suppose one has to go to the Algonquin Club now if one wants hear black people still called 'colored'" implied that you had to go to a place like the Algonquin or Locke-Ober to hear that. However, if you yourself are the one bringing these people with you, I now understand that this was not necessarily what you were saying. Although in that case, I can't understand why this then has anything to do with Locke-Ober.

I want to be clear that I am not commenting on your sensibilities. I realize that the people that you were bringing to Locke-Ober might have been clients, family, or other people that you generally have to see even if you might not want to. I just thought that my comment warranted clarification in view of your qualification.

"I can attest to you that as

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"I can attest to you that as recently as two years ago ( and many times over the past 30 years) I brought people to Locke Ober that still used that term."

Okay, so there people in this city who are old and set in their ways and still use the words "colored people."

And they like old style dining.

Might I ask: why should anyone care?

Happened to be black?

Did his black father accidentally inseminate his black mother? Or was his conception the result of a premeditated sexual act between two black people?

You're trying too hard to

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You're trying too hard to find something to be offended about.


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Someone is trying to get "gully" Kid!

Locke-Ober's demise is indicative of a sad trend.

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I cannot assess the veracity of of what Ray said, but to the extent that he is telling the truth (as opposed to shutting it down because of some bad stuff, e.g. tens of thousands owed to employees or back taxes, etc.) I say good for him for going out on his own terms.

People can and will say what they want about Locke-Ober being a hangout for stuffy old brahmin 1%ers, not admitting women until a relatively late date in the 20th century, etc., but the place is yet another example of a Boston institution lost to the unrelenting homogenization with the rest of America.

Said homogenization detracts significantly from the otherwise inherent attractiveness of Our Little Outpost on the North Atlantic, and we should fight it as best we can. So in that spirit, since I can't have three martinis with my lunch today, can someone bring me some tonic?

You mean people actually still ate there?

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I had visited the place only once in my life, with lawyers, as a non-lawyer. The food made such a incredible impression on me that, if one were to ask me what I had, I could not remember. What I do remember is the alley-way leading to the resturant smelling of urine but I digress.

And while I don't disagree with you regarding your "unrelenting homogenization," statement, I can't agree with your last statement of how said homogenization "destracts significantly" from Boston's attractiveness. Boston is still attractive with all its Starbucks, CVS, and so forth. So we now have one less Gilded Age establishment, the ghost given up by an owner who thought more customers would flock to the place if they did not have to wear a suit jacket.

He went out on his own terms with his dignity intact. And, for that, we all can give him a jacketless, dainty little hand clap.

Google killed Lock Ober

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Look at all of the jobs that pay well enough for one to eat at Locke-Ober. Look at all of the jobs that require suit jackets. They no longer overlap.

Sketchy Alley off Sketchy Winter Street

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What I do remember is the alley-way leading to the resturant smelling of urine but I digress.

Until the articles this week the only thing I only knew about Locke-Ober (is that like Zep-tember?) from that small sign on Winter St. and had wondered what it was for years. I had even joked that it was like one of those speculative fiction stories where people who walked down that alley to find out were never seen again.

For what it's worth, Winter St. itself has been sketchy as long as I can recall. I remember walking down there when I was a kid with my mom in the early '70s and all of a sudden this pissed-off woman started yelling across at a man "You know you fucked me last night! You know you fucked me!" I pretended I hadn't noticed.

Winter Street

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Winter Street wasn't nearly as sketchy in the 70s as it is now. I used to go to a great head shop there called Miles, which occupied the second floor and basement floor of the great old Shepard's Department Store art deco building, while the ground floor was a women's shoe store (a strange setup indeed, but very charming). In the 80s it became Stairway to Heaven. Next to Miles was Chock Full O Nuts, which almost nobody remembers now, with their fresh popcorn and roasted nuts that you could smell everywhere. Next to that was the once-ubiqitous Fannie Farmers. Now all that occupies the Shephard building is a bunch of very disgusting and run down looking fast food falafel and Chinese takeout type places and cell phone places. Sad. There was an entrance to Bailey's Ice Cream Shoppe on Winter, as well as one on Tremont. There were also prestigious jewelry stores like Stowell's, if I am not mistaken. It was quite a funky, but not seedy street. It is sad to see what it has become.

>>>>>Harp music

>>>>>Harp music playing<<<<<<

Bailey's Ice Cream along with the push cart in front of Jordan Marsh that sold 3 chicken fingers in a wax bag for $1.25.

Probably back in the early, mid 80's when there were actual benches to sit on between Jordan Marsh and Filenes.

Tough call.

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I dunno. I hate the prospect of a world filled with strip malls and Applebees as much as the next guy, but if my choices are "restaurants that excluded women until 1971" and "bland corporate homogenization," I'm going to have a pretty tough time making that call.

1971 is a long time ago.

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Princeton and Yale didn't admit women until 1969. If you start applying that kind of anti-discrimination logic to every institution you patronize, the list is going to get awfully short. And besides, Locke's did admit women--I know my parents had some memorable dates there. It was just the one clubby men's dining room that didn't if I remember right. I'm sad to hear of its passing but hope that it will have another renaissance. And yes, Winter Street has always been 10 different kinds of seedy, but it's never been quite so sad as it is now. I still put most of the blame on the vandals who ransacked our beloved Filene's Basement, forever altering the character of DTX.

Yay! Another part of Boston

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Yay! Another part of Boston history, warts and and all, is dead! Bring on the Pizza Hut Express! Is that what we're celebrating?

I have a feeling their

I have a feeling their revolutionary Hot Dog Stuffed Crust pizza would be the talk of the town! Er, at least the talk of all the junkies that hang out in DTX.

Actually, I hear the landlord

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Actually, I hear the landlord is pursuing Domino's, after Roslindale Village shot them down.

You're complaining about Pizza Hut? Really?

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The only Pizza Hut inside the city limits is in Hyde Park and it's not even strong enough to just be a Pizza Hut. It's a combo Pizza Hut/KFC/ Taco Bell (a Super Yum! location as it were). Beyond that, the next closest is in Medford and nothing else within 5 miles of Boston.

This city probably has fewer national chain restaurant locations of any city in the US other than Anchorage.

That's fine

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But then to raise it as a spectre of things to come as a oh-so-scary replacement for Locke-Ober is non-sensical.

How is it non-sensical? It

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How is it non-sensical? It could very well happen - and to my way of thinking it would be a pity to replace Locke-Ober with a Pizza Hut. I really have nothing against PH - I picked it out at random. Any faceless corporate fast food chain will do.

Pretty clear

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If we've gotten this far without many national chains finding ways into the area (and in fact most of them were around in greater numbers but slowly disappeared), then the loss of Locke-Ober is hardly going to be the stirring cry they were all waiting for to suddenly rush in as you used as a fear-inducing scenario.

It just doesn't follow.

Pretty clear

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If we've gotten this far without many national chains finding ways into the area (and in fact most of them were around in greater numbers but slowly disappeared), then the loss of Locke-Ober is hardly going to be the stirring cry they were all waiting for to suddenly rush in as you used as a fear-inducing scenario.

It just doesn't follow.

Boston's supposed to be all

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Boston's supposed to be all about history - I mean, that's why the tourists come here, right? We've got all this historical pride, but let old buildings and business die right and left.

let old buildings and

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let old buildings and business die right and left.

LET them die? You do know the owner closed it of his own accord, right?


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There is a certain amount of irony that a gentlemen who owned a classic old Boston institution couldn't figure out a way to keep the doors open while people flock to new places like Drink and Saloon that attempt to recreate a bygone era of classic cocktails and sophistication. Seems like with the number of people who are clearly yearning to experience the old, there would have been a way to tap into the market with an actual old restaurant!

It's kind of like going to

It's kind of like going to Disney for the European experience.

Or more like to Plimoth Plantation for the whole Pilgrim experience.

Interestingly no one ever wants to "experience" the Inquisition or the Plague.

I just find it weird to get rid of the "old" and then bring it back as the "new".

I would have happily spent

I would have happily spent plenty of time at the bar eating oysters and drinking cocktails IF their cocktail program was up to par. It wasn't. So I'm forced to go to the new/old places that actually use fresh juices, have a selection of rye instead of fudging it with Canadian whiskey. I have been consistently disappointed with drinks at most old standards, and it's a pity! I don't mind dressing for the occasion, and I'm more than happy to spend money and good food and drinks.

Not for nothing, but I'm

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Not for nothing, but I'm actually getting a little tired of the craft cocktail thing, having had regularly visited Drink, Backbar, Eastern Standard, etc. - sometimes you don't want a overly-precious hipster Pisco drink that takes as long to make as a cake. Sometimes you want to be your own Dad, loosen the tie, put down the briefcase at the bar at Anthony's Pier 4, get a Cutty on the rocks, and smoke a Lucky Strike while waiting for the prime rib. Guess I'm watching too much Mad Men.

Oh, I totally hear you. On

Oh, I totally hear you. On those nights, I usually make a sloppy l'il manhattan at home and stir it with my pinky finger...just like dad used to do. :)

I wasn't that impressed, but still sorry to see it go

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My old job used to have their annual holiday party there and I have to say I was never saw what all the fuss was about. The main draw seemed to be the lobster, but as someone who isn't all that into lobster the rest of the menu was not overly impressive.

Still though, I do mourn the systematic demise of all that is/was uniquely Boston.


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Yes, we are now too homogenized, and no, this is not a good thing. Boston and New England has [had?] a unique culture, unique dialect, accents, etc., which are now rapidly fading. I liked going to different regions of the country and experiencing the unique culture and aspects, and liked coming home to Boston. Much of what made us cool and interesting has been seriously watered down or destroyed, to the point that today we're little more than a Hollywood movie set and tourist trap.

Lost opportunity, or...

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Is it too late to liberally sprinkle the menu with "d-bags" and "a-holes?" Seems to work wonderfully for other Boston eateries. You know, patrons just love the vibe that colorful and spicy language gives off.

Being a working stiff, I only had the opportunity to eat at Locke-Ober once, but it was one hell of a great meal, and good service to boot.

Had some raucous . . .

. . . family dinners in the private dining rooms there years past. Good memories. Hadn't been there in years though. Sad to see it go.