Croan McCormack says it wasn't a dispute with his chef, or his own back surgery, or the long-term illness of a family member that shuttered Tonic, across from the Forest Hills T stop. It was, he says, patients from Shattuck Hospital congregating in front of the liquor store two doors down and scaring away his customers.
Apparently, pasta lovers are made of sterner stuff than casual drinkers. McCormack was before the Boston Licensing Board this morning, asking for permission to turn Tonic into an Italian restaurant, either through a deal with a Chicago chain of Italian eateries that's expressed interest in Forest Hills, or through his own efforts.
McCormack needs board approval because he is currently sitting on Tonic's liquor license, which the board could take away from him if it decides he has no plans to either use it or sell it.
McCormack admitted to the board today that "my vision was wrong" for a spritely bistro catering to medical workers and other professionals in the area looking for a place for a late-night bite and drink. And that's because those professionals took one look at the Shattuck patients outside the liquor store, got scared and went elsewhere, he said.
"My neighbor next door is in the same predicament," he said, referring to Eugene O'Neill's, which, however, has consistently stayed open since arriving in Forest Hills, unlike Tonic, which opened, shut not long after, then re-opened, then shut again. The Dogwood Cafe has also remained open in the same block for several years.
McCormack told the board two earlier agreements to sell his liquor license fell through due to licensing issues, but that he was approached by the Chicago Italian concern a couple days ago and that its proposal looked promising.
He added, "If it doesn't work out, then I'll do it myself."
A representative from City Councilor Matt O'Malley's office attended the hearing to back McCormack's request.
The board decides Thursday whether to give McCormack 90 days to do something with his license.