Making your way in the restaurant business today takes everything you’ve got. But that still won’t be enough — if customers aren’t coming in the door.
Restaurateur Tom Kershaw has learned that the hard way with his 20-year-old Cheers venture at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Kershaw announced on Tuesday that he would close the business for good on Aug. 30. Like most other Boston restaurants, Cheers has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original Cheers on Beacon Street, formerly the Bull & Finch, will stay open, as will other ventures under Kershaw’s Hampshire House Corp. umbrella: the Hampshire House, 75 Chestnut, and 75 on Liberty Wharf.
Markus Ripperger, president of Hampshire House Corp., said the business was too slow at Faneuil Hall this summer. The Cheers restaurant there reopened in June after shutting down in March.
Exacerbating matters: Landlord Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. was only willing to defer the rent due for the months the restaurant was closed until 2021, Ripperger said, rather than forgive it completely. It’s an issue that has aggravated a number of Faneuil Hall tenants.
“We met multiple times with the landlord,” Ripperger said. “There was absolutely no assistance coming. … If I’m not open for three months, there’s no way I can make that up, especially not as this pandemic has taken a little longer than anyone thought.”
A spokesman for Ashkenazy said the New York company does not typically comment on lease negotiations with individual tenants.
Kershaw opened the restaurant two decades ago to attract tourists interested in reliving a bit of TV magic: In a case of life imitating art imitating life, the bar was built to mimic the set of the popular “Cheers” TV show, which in turn was inspired by the Bull & Finch.
In pre-COVID times, Ripperger said, the replica bar location could seat about 300 people. The capacity was cut in half, at least, since the reopening. The restaurant needs to generate strong business in the summer to weather the quiet winter months at Faneuil Hall, but revenue has been down at least 80 percent from the same time a year ago.
The Cheers location joins a growing number of empty spaces in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a list that includes Durgin-Park and Dick’s Last Resort. The dearth of tourists this summer, Ripperger said, really hurt.
Ripperger said the company is trying to find jobs for some of the roughly 30 displaced workers at its other locations. But business is down at those locations, too.
“We’re trying to absorb some of the staff and management into our other businesses,” he said. “But those other businesses aren’t doing what they normally do.”