Upper Crust pizza chain sliced up at auction; ousted founder wins leases for some locations

Bidding for Upper Crust’s assets is underway and a private equity firm with ties to founder Jordan Tobins appears to have won leases for the currently-closed South End, Lexington, Watertown, and Wellesley stores, while an attorney who filed a lawsuit against Tobins and the bankrupt pizza chain for allegedly exploiting workers submitted the highest bid for the Harvard Square location.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, who sued Upper Crust in 2010 on behalf of immigrant workers who claim the company took advantage of employees and seized back wages from them, said she plans to give them ownership shares in the Cambridge restaurant.

“We are very excited about buying back the Harvard Square location and making it into a model workplace for the benefit of the workers, with the workers owning shares of the business,” Liss-Riordan said. “I hope this effort will provide at least one bright spot in this sad and troubling story.”

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An affiliate of Ditmars Ltd.—a private equity firm working with Tobins—made the top offers of $290,000 for the South End location on Tremont Street; $180,000 for the Lexington restaurant; $110,000 for the Wellesley shop; and $75,000 for the Watertown site. Christopher Panos, who represents Ditmars, submitted the bids. Panos said earlier this week that an affiliate of Ditmars submitted offers for several locations but would not identify them at the time.

Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy in October after years of mounting financial and labor troubles. A bankruptcy trustee shuttered 10 of the chain’s stores in November because it had little cash on hand and few supplies after executives paid themselves a month’s salary in advance.

Al Carvelli, who currently runs an Upper Crust franchise in Plymouth, apparently had the winning bid of $70,000 for the Hingham location, according to Liss-Riordan who is attending the auction. Boston Restaurant Associates offered $175,000 for the site near Fenway Park and Sam Sokol, who has helped run nightclubs and other venues in the region, paid $100,000 for the Newbury Street restaurant. The landlord at State Street bought back its lease for $170,000 and the landlord for the Washington, D.C., shop also purchased its lease for $63,000.

The offers are for leases and restaurant equipment, not the rights to use the Upper Crust name.

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