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Owners of Allston club shut for repeated violence get June 10 deadline to sell liquor license or have it taken away

The Boston Licensing Board voted today to take away the Russian Benevolent Society's valuable liquor license for its long shuttered Linden Street nightclub if the organization doesn't file complete written documentation by June 10 - with signatures on paper and everything - that it's really, truly, no kidding, selling the liquor license to the owner of a Mediterranean restaurant in Watertown who says he wants to open a restaurant in the space.

In a meeting today, the board said that in addition to signed contracts and leases and other paperwork, it needs proof that the society - once a group of old Russian emigres who would gather occasionally for dinner, but later turned into the operator of a nightclub where men with guns would sometimes go to settle scores - has started a formal "community process" to meet with abutters and the Allston Civic Association to gather their input on the proposal to turn the club, closed since 2022, into a new Jana Grill and Bakery.

The board would then hold a hearing on June 26 to consider approval of transferring the license at a hearing.

"There will be no exceptions," board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce said.

Joyce said she is pretty fed up with the way society owner Alex Matov seems to have strung the board along for months now - at first saying he would sell the license to a group planning an LGBTQ+ "quiet space," then announcing he would keep the license, then, last week, more than six months after the board signaled it was ready to take away its liquor license, telling it he had a verbal agreement with Jana's owner, but nothing in writing.

But Joyce said she realized that negotiations over selling the license and leasing the space could be complicated and that Matov's two lawyers made a good case for getting three more weeks to iron things out. "I'm trying to be fair, I'm trying to be reasonable," she said.

Her fellow board members agreed to give Matov until June 10 to file all the paperwork.

Full liquor licenses in Boston are a scarce commodity - they go for more than $600,000 on the open market now - because the state legislature has refused for years to increase the number of licenses Boston can dole out. Restricting Boston liquor licenses is a practice that started decades ago Brahmin legislators tried to bottle up the Irish who ran the city - the governor even appointed members of the licensing board until after Marty Walsh became mayor - but which has since morphed into a way to protect the interests of license holders, who don't want to see the value of their licenses decrease.

Also today, the board agreed to grant a full-liquor license - if by some miracle one is sitting in a drawer in City Hall somewhere - to the operators of the Roslindale Substation - a restored former Boston Elevated power plant that has turned into a community gathering spot, with a growing roster of events and performances that has never been before the board for disciplinary problems, let alone repeated instances of gunfire.

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Comments

protect the interests of license holders, who don't want to see the value of their licenses decrease.

Gotta prop up that value!

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Voting closed 26

It's actually a big deal. Owners use the license as collateral and, in commercial loans, usually one of the covenants is that the collateral has to hold it's value or loan can be called early. It would put many small restaurant operators into bankruptcy.

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Voting closed 13

Just like our housing!

Anyway, best keep things as is, reform never works

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Voting closed 26

Restaurants go out of business all the time. This liquor license system is broken. A few people profit while everyone else suffers. Enough is enough.

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Voting closed 23

This guy completely screwed over the LGBTQ+ group that sounds like they had already invested a fair amount of money into the space. He's horrible and clearly isn't doing anything in good faith.

Just take the license away now. Why are they trying to make sure this dirtbag makes a load of cash?

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Voting closed 36

A Russian treating the LGBT community poorly? No way. /s

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Voting closed 19

If Jana Grill is moving/opening a second location in this space and is sold the license and this owner stops jerking people around, then this is all a good outcome.

Jana Grill's food is very good and unique. I don't mind going over to Watertown for it, but they have almost nowhere other than a very tiny parking lot to stop and pick up food to go.

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Voting closed 21

For the inclusion of the liquor license history lesson. Very interesting and informative!

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Voting closed 12