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Owner of Allston roast-beef place closes in a huff after fire inspector asks him to comply with fire code

Boston.com reports on the recent closing of Roast Beast on Commonwealth Avenue: The owner now hates Massachusetts in general and Marty Walsh in particular because a fire inspector told him if he wanted to keep running electric griddles, he'd need to install a venting system, and he decided to shut in a huff rather than spend $150,000 on a system.

It wasn't the first time he ran into city regulations.

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Comments

Although I 100% agreed with him initially in regards to what sounds like somone at the BFD just "wanted an envelope".

Him closing abruptly and posting snotty messages comes of as biting his nose to spite his face.

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Or he can leave in a huff. If that's too soon he can leave in a minute and a huff. -RTF

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We need a venting hood just to handle all of the smoke this story has caused...
.

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Todd knows how to close a restaurant with style and grace (and unpaid bills...)

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Because the start of his Boston downfall may have been a 2010 fire at Olives in Charlestown - caused by improper maintenance of ventilation ducts, at least, according to the building's owner, who sued English more than two years later- during which time Olives remained closed and English stopped paying rent. The landlord won the suit and Olives's liquor license, which he then sold to Roger Berkowitz.

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"...which he then sold to Roger Berkowitz..."

Who once burned down his Inman Square seafood restaurant for the insurance money to help build the Legal Seafood empire.

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The previous article mentions a Richard Lawton whose 'wife and son' were running the restaurant. Now this one mentions 'DJ' Lawton, who presumably started up this restaurant by having his dad funding it or something.

Edited to remove unnecessary meanness.

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DJ was the man with the dream of roast beef sandwiches; Richard is his father, the lawyer, who was caught unaware by Boston's restaurant licensing requirements.

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I've never heard of the place. He opened in 2011? If you opened a business in Allston during my prime host-trivia-and-then-drink-until-close-and-go-home-and-watch-Family-Guy-years, and I never knew you existed, you royally screwed the pooch.

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which was published in March of 2011, and pretty laudatory, as I recall. To this day, I'm still buying the Wickles Pickles that Roast Beast introduced me to: sweet and chili-hot. RIP.

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With 480 reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Yelp, I'd say that the guy did alright for himself without actively courting the drunk-trivia-host demographic.

I'm curious how the guy heated/cooked his roast beef, though, if the only cooking appliances were a couple of griddles. Or did he serve it (shudder) cold?

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Probably purchased pre-cooked and refrigerated. Re-heat in a convection microwave and grill on the electric things. Many small sandwich shops do this. It's Subway's MO and they don't have hoods.

The guy could appeal the Fire Department inspector who very well might have overstepped his bounds and/or not known the rules. If he's lucky a sympathetic supervisor will tell him to ignore the inspector and sign his paperwork. If he's unlucky it turns into tea-candles-in-cambridge affair.

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You definitely need hoods in any commercial kitchen even if all you are using is a hot plate. The rules for such are very strict and comprehensive [and well known]. Even in situations where there might be just heat or steam from dishwashers, hoods can be required. And Subways have been required to install hoods or exhaust systems for their ovens.

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He didn’t need you to see any advertising. The guy was in walking distance of nine million apartments. His neighborhood business was very very strong due to all the college kids and young professionals.

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No venting system means he was subjecting his employees to even worse air and heat than a properly vented restaurant does. And the air and temperatures in those aren’t all that safe either.
Good riddance!

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The little sandwich grills don't put off bad air or too much heat. It's effectively a big flat waffle iron.

I think the FD went too far. Tons of small restaurants in Boston operate with electric grills and no hoods. You really only need a hood for high heat, oils, open flame cooking, etc. From the article he wasn't doing any of that.

Sounds like the owner was ready to move on and this is as good of an excuse as any. I don't blame him for not wanting to argue with BFD even if he'd win.

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I just saw this place on either on Chronicle or Diners and drive-ins last week. I was planning on going, oh well.

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Wait. Who's winning here?

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I do not believe for one damn minute that a lawyer who ran a restaurant for 8 years didn't think that adding a hot top couldn't potentially require additional fire prevention or exhaust requirements to stay legal.

I'd bet my next paycheck that he didn't let his insurance company know he installed griddles-- restaurant insurance companies are not slack and might have required it as well, even if the city did not. His insurance coverage would definitely require ISD & fire compliance.

Restaurant griddles are not like home panini presses, as someone speculated above. They are unlidded heated metal platforms. In the restaurants where I worked, the extra large ones were called grills, the smaller ones or freestanding ones were called griddles. They are hot as hell, they are covered with grease, and they definitely increase the risk of fire, even the electric ones that do not have open flames.

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Yes, and depending on the size of the business, and the product being used, and other circumstances, they may also require a HACCP or HARPC plan. But you are entirely right: Restaurant griddles are not like home panini press, which is (or should be) the whole point.

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So terribly sorry to see this gem of a place close. The Boston.com post didn’t do DJ any favors either...He was clearly upset with the BFD’s cease & desist letter...It appears he blew off some steam when speaking with them...Sometimes frustration gets the best of us...The Roast Beast was a fantastic roast beef joint. Small, incredibly reliable high-quality sandwiches made with love...DJ is catching heat now, but his little basement shop bloomed a few hundred yards away from the ill-fated CommAve/Harvard Ave Kelly’s....(& I like Kelly’s too, but not nearly as much) The Roast Beast earned a nearly perfect 5 Yelp rating for years...Even “haters” were won over...DJ is also a good dude. He greeted every guest with a warm welcome and a smile. He was somehow able to hold an old-school-authentic conversation while building his warmed-through butter-grilled masterpieces with the care of a surgeon.
I wish everyone in the comments (& reading this) had a chance to experience it before it closed. For whatever reason it had to happen, it’s a damn shame. DJ just posted he is open to taking proposals to carry on the business...I’m really hoping it will live on...The “Ianwich” is one of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten. Here’s to DJ’s next chapter, and the future Roast Beast 2.0

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from their Facebook page:

"Since my last post, my phone has not stopped ringing.
Due to extremely high demand, customer loyalty, and cult following, I am concerned that I may never be able to place an outgoing call again.

It would be selfish of me to not give someone else the opportunity to take advantage of what I dedicated the last decade of my life to creating. That is why I have decided to offer the Roast Beast brand for sale. Names, trademarks, copyrights, website, trade fixtures, recipes and anything else associated with the brand will be included.

Anyone qualified with a serious offer should submit it by December 1st to [email protected].

Whoever’s offer I accept will receive everything needed to make the greatest sandwiches on earth available once again.

Yours truly,

DJ Lawton"

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So how did he open, never mind pass countless other inspections, without this vent that is all of a sudden critically needed?

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Place was awesome. Better than many of the old school roast beef places. Hope someone starts it back up soon

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