Fall Preview

From Donovan’s to Descent: A Short History of Delayed Gratification

Hey, remember when this guy was going to open a burger bar?
Hey, remember when this guy was going to open a burger bar? Photo: Todd English

It’s Fall Preview day here at Grub Street Boston and we’ll be bringing you mouthwatering news and photos of the season’s biggest openings all day long.

Descent, the Sasha Petraske cocktail bar originally slated to open in the W Hotel in January is now projected for November, an eleven month delay. But the time lapse isn’t Boston’s longest, not by a long shot. As we look forward to this fall’s openings, let us look back at five of Boston’s most delayed openings in recent history.

• When Descent was first announced back in October 2009, the projected opening date was January 2010. In January, it remained unopened, but BizBash named it as one of the year’s top ten most anticipated openings nationwide. Eight months later, they (and the rest of us) are still anticipating it, as the bar isn’t expected to open until November.

• When word got out in early 2009 that Lord Hobo would open in the former B-Side Lounge location in Inman Square, people were excited and why not? Owner Daniel Lanigan is the man behind great Western Mass beer bars The Moan and Dove and The Dirty Truth and Lord Hobo, with its massive beer list and craft cocktail program, sounded like a slam dunk. And then it got caught in permitting hell. A late September opening was eventually scheduled but, like earlier estimates, it passed without so much as a friends and family preview. By early November, some hero had set up a single serving website that answered the question “Is Lord Hobo open yet?” The answer was no until November 18.

Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale’s delay wasn’t as long as some, but the Downtown Crossing tavern earns a place on this list based on the sheer number of times they set an opening date, only to not make it. To wit: the original date was November 17. Then, December 7. Then, January 12. Then, January 6. Then, January 28. Then, February 23. The restaurant finally opened in early April.

• Oh, C.F. Donovan’s! Perhaps the Boston restaurant world’s single most epic saga, it all began when a Hyde Park outpost of the popular Dorchester spot was originally announced for November 2006. So to reiterate: this restaurant was supposed to open when Bush was still in office. Nothing much more was heard until February 2008, when the restaurant posted a hiring ad on Craiglist. Another Craigslist ad went up in October of the same year, and, by February 2009, owner Arthur Donovan was telling folks that he was all staffed up and ready to open. That didn’t happen. What did happen was yet another Craigslist hiring post in April 2009, which promised an opening “VERY soon.” In July 2009, Donovan announced that he planned to open within a week. Nope! In September, the Dorchester C.F. Donovan’s caught on fire and less than a month later, it was revealed that Donovan had defaulted on $300,000 of loans from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The Dorchester C.F. Donovan’s shuttered a few weeks later, and, in January, the never-opened Hyde Park restaurant finally lost its liquor license.

• And finally, Todd English’s never-named burger bar, the subject of the very first post on this blog (then the MenuPages Boston Blog) back in March 2007. Back then, it was scheduled for fall 2007, but the project quickly dropped from the public’s attention. In May, English told us the burger dream was still alive and kicking and that October, he announced that the burger bar would open in the former home of Dominic’s in the Theater District. In January of this year, the opening was slated for March. Reliable sources have told us the deal is dead, but you can never quite be sure with this spot.

From Donovan’s to Descent: A Short History of Delayed Gratification