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Campaign aims to resurrect Great Scott under new ownership

Carl Lavin, Great Scott's booking agent since 2004, hopes to raise $150,000 from a crowdsourced investment campaign to buy the club.
Carl Lavin, Great Scott's booking agent since 2004, hopes to raise $150,000 from a crowdsourced investment campaign to buy the club.Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe/file

Great Scott’s longtime booking agent has launched a crowdfunded investment campaign to reopen the beloved Allston music venue under new ownership. In its first 24 hours, the effort raised $42,000 from more than 120 prospective investors.

The campaign was the brainchild of Carl Lavin, the venue’s booking agent since 2004. He contacted the Salem-based company, Mainvest, with the idea to pool money from investors to save the bar and rock club after it shuttered last month. He hopes to raise at least $150,000 in 85 days.

Lavin said he reached an agreement with the current owner, Frank Strenk, who will transfer the business to him under his new venture, Chowderquake, LLC, if the campaign is successful. Lavin will then retain Great Scott’s name, intellectual property, and liquor license; Strenk will continue to own and operate O’Brien’s Pub in Allston.

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“Spaces like Great Scott represent the life force of a neighborhood,” Lavin wrote on the webpage announcing the campaign. “As a landmark business for over 40 years we believe establishments like Great Scott are essential to the fabric of neighborhoods, and in light of COVID-19 will need the community’s support to preserve the space for years to come.”

Anyone can invest a minimum of $100 through Mainvest and expect a 140 percent return rate on their financial contribution by 2027, according to the campaign’s webpage. Investors will be fully refunded if the campaign fails to reach its goal.

Mainvest CEO Nick Mathews said it is highly unlikely the effort, launched Wednesday, does not raise its intended amount — or possibly more. Each hour, the fund grows by the thousands. “It would be a strong outlier for this campaign not to end up successful,” he said by phone Wednesday.

Lavin said he will use the funds to show the building’s owners, Oak Hill Properties, he can sustain Great Scott through the ongoing pandemic. He also intends to soundproof the space as Oak Hill had previously requested of Strenk.

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“I’m trying to raise the funds to demonstrate to the landlords that I would have the capital to be able to pay rent until Great Scott can reopen fully,” Lavin said by phone Thursday.

He contacted Oak Hill’s lawyer, John Mangones, in early May, and said he was assured he would be given the same opportunity to lease the space as any other applicants. Mangones told the Globe in an e-mail that Oak Hill has “no comment on the situation.”

The space at 1222 Commonwealth Ave. is currently up for lease.

Strenk, who had been renting month to month, declined to sign a long-term lease this spring amid uncertainty about the path forward for Great Scott as a live-music venue, according to a letter Mangones sent to the Globe earlier this month. The club has been closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since a Facebook post in April announced Great Scott’s permanent closure, nearly 25,000 people have signed a change.org petition to resurrect the venue. Former bar manager Tim Philbin has also been selling T-shirts and raising money from a GoFundMe campaign for employee relief.

The outpouring has made Lavin more confident about Great Scott’s future.

“It’ll be a little bit before we can continue live music shows, but we will be able to open up as a bar in the meantime," Lavin said. "The appetite for people just to be able to go into Great Scott again, even if it is just to hang out with a friend and listen to whose ever’s Spotify playlist is going … is there.”

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Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.