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Latest plan for derelict Allston club where guys with guns used to try to settle scores: Turn it into a Mediterranean restaurant with entertainment

The Boston Licensing Board decides Thursday whether to let the owners of the closed Garage nightclub on Linden Street in Allston try to close a deal to lease the space and sell the liquor license to the owner of Jana Grill and Bakery of Watertown, who said today he would use the larger Allston space to offer both Mediterranean food and entertainment.

Board members had told Russian Benevolent Society co-owner Alex Matov more than six months ago they would move to cancel and take back his liquor license - worth more than $600,000 on the open market - if he didn't find somebody to re-open the space, and without him owning the liquor license, since board members had had enough of the gunfire and other issues that kept coming up under Matov's ownership.

All those problems finally led to the club being permanently shut in 2022 - although back then, Matov had been planning to tear the entire building down to make way for an apartment complex he had won approval to build, only to shelve those plans as interest rates went up.

Last year, Matov had signed a deal with Sound Logic, which organizes pop-up events centered on hi-fi music and which had planned to turn the former Garage space into an LGBTQ+ friendly "quiet space". But after Sound Logic started paying Matov rent and began renovating the space - and after Matov told the licensing board he wanted to retain ownership of the liquor license - the deal fell through.

At a hearing today, Matov said he had found a new operator: Jana Grill owner Suren Keryan. Matov and his attorneys told the board they were probably a few days away from finishing formal written deals under which Matov would sell Keryan his liquor license and lease him the old Garage space.

Keryan told the board that when he first toured the site about three months ago, he didn't like it, because Matov wanted too much money, but that on a second visit, Matov agreed to some concessions and now he can't wait to move in - subject to finishing up the last days of negotiating, which he and Matov's attorneys said would focus on final financial terms, but which both seemed optimistic would be easy to finalize.

"For me, everything is perfect, so I'm ready," he said.

If the board does vote Thursday to belay revocation of Matov's license, it said it would give Matov and Keryan until June 27 to submit paperwork to begin the formal transfer of the liquor license to Keryan. The board would then hold off any vote on that until after Keryan had gone through a background check and meetings with both immediate neighbors and the Allston Civic Association.

However, board members cautioned both sides the deal needs to be done quickly, because they are done accommodating Matov.

Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce said she was less than pleased to get a call last Friday that Matov had a verbal agreement, but not a written one, because he's known since December today's revocation hearing would be coming up - and that, in fact, the specific date was posted a month ago. Board members said verbal agreements aren't worth the paper they're not written on and they need something in writing as proof Matov is not simply trying to delay things again.

"Why wasn't this signed a week ago rather than a week from now?" she asked. Kurt Bletzer, one of Matov's attorneys, said that was the idea, but that hammering out the details of a deal had simply taken longer than expected.

Joyce also double checked to make sure that this time Matov really was serious about actually selling the liquor license - in a city where they are scarce and expensive due to a state legislature that likes keeping a thumb on Boston and where there would be a huge number of takers for a license that didn't require a six-figure payment on the open market to obtain.

Last year, Matov told the board he would sell the license, but then in December said no, he wanted to keep it, but let somebody else use it under a "management agreement." Under questioning from Joyce, he said he had misunderstood things in December, but that he now realized he had to sell the license to keep the board from simply taking it away.

"I don't understand how a businessman like you, who's been in in business for years didn't understand that," especially with the counsel of two attorneys - one of whom formerly worked for the licensing board - she said.

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Comments

Wish this was a complete sale and not a lease of the property, would be better if the previous owner was no longer involved.

I guarantee the people bringing guns to the club weren't BU students, maybe something that caters to them and not gang/mob wannabe types would be a start.

With the same owner having some control, I won't be surprised if the same problems start happening again.

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In a city where there's barely any restaurant life in the less popular neighborhoods because the Legislature is corrupt and bribable, the city allowing this chucklefuck to hold onto the license for as long as they have is a joke. A neighborhood restaurant could have been up and running by now.

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to think it's weird that Boston treats liquor licenses as commodities?

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The Massachusetts legislature refuses to give Boston control over its own liquor licenses, creating an artificial shortage.

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