If Great Scott wants to reopen, the longtime Allston music venue will likely have to find a new home.
Despite a crowdfunded investment campaign that raised almost $200,000 to help Great Scott reopen after closing in May, Oak Hill LLC, the owner of the commercial space at 1222 Commonwealth Ave. that previously housed the music venue, expects to enter a long-term lease agreement for the space with another tenant.
On May 1, longtime Great Scott owner Frank Strenk decided not to continue Great Scott’s lease, seemingly closing the venue for good after 44 years in business. Shortly after, longtime Great Scott talent buyer Carl Lavin brokered an agreement with Strenk for the transfer of Great Scott’s name, intellectual property, and liquor license, and kicked off a fundraising campaign to save the venue.
The campaign is run through investment platform MainVest, which allows people to put money behind businesses they believe in and potentially see a return on their investment. Lavin’s campaign surpassed its initial funding milestone of $150,000 in June, with an ultimate goal of $350,000.
Lavin told Boston.com in June that beyond rent payments and operating costs, he hoped to raise additional money in order to install soundproofing for the venue, which would satisfy a request Oak Hill made to Strenk in February.
“I can’t wait to be the best tenant they’ve ever had,” Lavin said.
It now seems unlikely Lavin will get that chance.
A letter sent to Lavin by John A. Mangones, an attorney representing Oak Hill, said that the landlord “is moving forward” with another prospective tenant and expects that “a long-term lease will be executed shortly.”
In the letter, Mangones outlined concerns that Oak Hill had about Great Scott’s “demonstrated ability to pay over the lifetime of the lease,” stating that Lavin had failed to submit documentation pertaining to Great Scott’s financial standing.
“There is still no timeline as to when Massachusetts will lift the shutdown for bars/music venues, therefore Great Scott would have to pay rent for many months without generating any revenue,” Mangones wrote. “Furthermore, Oak Hill has recently spoken to Great Scott’s former owner, Frank Strenk, who stated that he would not sell the liquor license for less than $400,000. This alone is more than twice the amount that Great Scott has raised through its MainVest campaign, to say nothing of all other business expenses required to operate.”
Mangones also wrote that as part of the letter of intent signed with the prospective new tenant, “Oak Hill will not have any further communication” with Lavin about the property.
In a statement e-mailed to Boston.com, MainVest CEO Nick Mathews said that the company had “requested an audience” with Oak Hill after reviewing Mangones’s letter, but was denied.
“Our understanding is that Carl submitted an application in the first week of June, which was never acknowledged, discussed, or followed up on until the rejection letter was sent today,” Mathews said. “With nearly $200,000 raised from 500+ local investors voting with their wallets for the future of Great Scott and two months remaining on the campaign, we believe that the commercial viability of Great Scott assuming the lease aligns with the outpouring of market validation from the community.”
Mathews also said that MainVest’s policy states that if campaigns like Great Scott’s are “unable to find a viable path forward,” all investments will be returned to investors with no fees.
“MainVest’s mission is centered on the belief that communities, not corporations, should have the power to vote with their wallets and drive the economic development and prosperity of their neighborhoods,” Mathews said. “With over 500 local investors voting with their wallets in favor of local business growth and tens of thousands more signing petitions and sharing social media in support of Great Scott’s future, we’re hopeful that the Allston community has a seat at the table when considering the businesses in their backyard.”
On Tuesday, Lavin shared a message on the MainVest campaign page, thanking fans of the venue for contributing and attempting to keep Allston from settling “for whatever homogenous pablum the rest of the city serves up in multitudes.”
“Not every fight is won, but it’s the fight that matters,” Lavin wrote. “This is one of those times when each and every one of you could thank each and every other one of you for being a part of something that was special.”