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Lord Hobo a no-go in Somerville

Despite the large banner that says “Coming Soon,” and the old application notice about the brewery hanging in the front window, the company says there are no longer plans to open a satellite space on Highland Avenue.

Plans to open a Lord Hobo brewery location on Highland Avenue are no longer moving ahead.Steve Annear/

SOMERVILLE — For two years residents hoped that they would soon have a new place to grab a pint on the weekends, or after work, along Highland Avenue.

But local brewery Lord Hobo confirmed this week that long-awaited plans to open a location at the former ONCE Lounge and Ballroom are no longer on tap.

While a large banner in the window at 156 Highland Ave. still says “Coming Soon,” a second sign bearing the name of the brewery has been torn down, revealing a gloomy view inside of the abandoned ballroom space and music venue.

According to Lord Hobo chief executive Simon Thorpe, the brewery canceled its plans for Somerville “to focus on the continued development of Seaport and Woburn locations.”

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Lord Hobo marketing director Aubree Karls said that the decision came down to the company wanting to avoid “spreading ourselves too thin.”

“We revisited our priorities and made the decision to focus our resources on excelling in a few key areas,” she said.

The update comes after months of inactivity at the venue, which drew questions from people in the community who were curious about the project’s timeline.

Lord Hobo first announced it would open its fourth location, in Somerville, in the summer of 2022. At the time, a large Lord Hobo decal and logo were put on display in the front windows of the former ONCE lounge. A spokesperson told the Globe that a new location was in the works, but stopped short of giving more details.

According to city officials, a building permit application for the construction of a beer hall at the site was submitted in June of 2022. However, the permit application “was abandoned by the applicant,” meaning they stopped responding and replying to officials for the necessary documents to move ahead.

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In November, officials said, a request was made to the applicant for approved electrical plans. No response was received, and nine months later, in August, a permit denial notice was sent.

Now, the boarded-up, dust-filled building seems frozen in time, standing in stark contrast to the bustling, vibrant street corner. Stickers from local bands, artists, and vandals still cover the poles extending down from the worn blue awning at the ballroom’s entrance.

The city has not received any new permit applications for the building’s main ballroom where Lord Hobo had planned to move in, and building owner Richard Di Giralamo says the space is not officially back on the market.

The left side of the building, along Central Street, also has vacancies. Behind the boarded up windows, a cannabis dispensary, East Coast Remedies, is beginning to renovate — but progress is similarly slow going.

The city stopped construction of the dispensary in January of 2023, after discovering fire protection systems in the building had been turned off, putting other building occupants — including a house of worship and a day care — at risk. Work wasn’t allowed to resume until May of last year. Following further inspection, the city will issue a certificate of occupancy to the dispensary.

In an e-mail to the Globe, City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, whose district includes that area, called the situation on that block “very frustrating!”

“The former businesses were displaced, and they’ve sat vacant and messy ever since. Every time I ask [about the dispensary], I’m told that work is now starting, but I won’t really believe it until I see it,” he said.

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In response to questions about the delays at both the former ONCE lounge space, and along Central Street, Grace Munns, Somerville’s deputy director of communications, said officials are “committed to helping small businesses open and grow in Somerville.”

“The city offers soup-to-nuts support to local businesses, ranging from location search assistance and a new business liaison who helps newcomers through the permitting process, all the way to numerous initiatives to help local entrepreneurs thrive once they open,” she said.