Still-shut restaurant aims to start anew
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
The blood and shrapnel are finally gone.
But change is coming slowly at the Forum restaurant since one of the Boston Marathon bombs exploded outside its patio. The facade is still shrouded in black plywood, and its owner, Euz Azevedo, is waiting for new furniture and carpeting while slogging though a seemingly endless insurance process.
“I’d open tomorrow if I could,” said Azevedo, a 33-year-old immigrant from Brazil. “But when this thing blew up, it blew shrapnel everywhere — all these little fragments went into the walls, all the wood, the floors and the ceiling.”
The Forum is the only Boylston Street business yet to reopen since the April 15 bombings. But Azevedo is using the downtime to start fresh at the Forum — creating a brighter, bolder interior with no hint of the horrific suffering that unfolded on Marathon Monday. Several patrons and bystanders were badly injured outside the restaurant, leaving a trail of blood that seems impossible to forget, no matter how much new flooring is laid down.
“People will definitely still think about what happened, but I want them to see something new, something more colorful and happier,” Azevedo said on a recent afternoon. “I’m hoping we can bring a little joy to people.”
The alleged bombers, immigrant brothers from Kyrgyzstan, were said to be hostile to their adopted country. But Azevedo came to the United States at age 18 in 1998 and seized on the opportunities offered.
He earned an undergraduate degree from Fisher College in Boston and a master’s degree in business administration from Northeastern University. In 2006, he bought The Tap, a Faneuil Hall bar, and then opened three more restaurants: Griddler’s, Noche (since closed), and Forum, all of which operated under the umbrella of his company, Boston Nightlife Ventures.
It was video from the Forum’s security cameras that helped investigators single out Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev as the bombing suspects. In the government’s complaint charging Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors said footage from the Forum’s camera shows the brothers carrying backpack bombs along Boylston Street in the minutes before the explosions and then the younger of the two dropping his bag onto the pavement outside the restaurant before swiftly walking away.
“One of the things that has helped me rest easier is knowing that I somehow played a small role in getting these guys,” Azevedo said. “Even the FBI was like, ‘The cameras were awesome, guys. Thank you very much.’ ”
The explosion instantly turned Azevedo’s flagship eatery — a cavernous two-floor space overlooking Boylston Street — into a scene of bloody chaos.
Manager Chris Loper said he was going into the restaurant from a back alley when he heard the blast and felt the building shake at about 2:50 p.m. A moment of stunned silence was followed by frantic evacuation, with Loper helping people out the back door. He then rushed to the front of the restaurant and saw wounded patrons and bystanders, some with missing limbs and bleeding profusely, many in shock.
Loper and another manager used some curtains for rags, while several pulled off their belts to make tourniquets.
“We brought out ice and as many linens as we could find,” Loper said. “People just held on to the victims until help arrived.”
Two of the restaurant’s employees were injured by the bombs, but both are expected to recover fully.
The damage to the restaurant was extensive. Its front windows were blown out, and shrapnel was embedded in the furniture, murals, and ceiling. For 10 days, Azevedo and his staff were unable to get inside while the FBI collected evidence. Investigators ripped out the carpet on the second floor and plucked out bomb fragments all over the restaurant.
The blur of those first days gave way to the cold reality of rebuilding. He first threw out the leftover food and then spent two weeks photographing the damage and tabulating his losses for the insurance company.
That pushed back the repairs, and he and his carrier are still negotiating what will be covered. More recently, he has been huddling with designers and pressing ahead with renovations but is unsure about when the Forum will reopen.
In the meantime, Azevedo is trying to help a staff that has been out of work for six weeks. He is still paying his managers and trying to find shifts for wait staff and bartenders at his other restaurants.
His new chef, Matthew Barros, is also revamping the Forum’s menu, testing new dishes at sold-out fund-raising dinners at the company’s other restaurants, such as Noche, to benefit the staff and the bombing victims. Letters of support have poured in from around the world, including e-mails from North Dakota, Alaska, New Zealand, and Australia.
“It’s basically the same message from everywhere: ‘God bless you, and we’re thinking about you,’ Azevedo said. “It’s really been quite humbling.”
Azevedo said he is hoping to give back with a series of events later this summer, marking the Forum’s reopening. One of the first will be a fund-raiser for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which provides money to help cancer patients and their families.
The foundation had been holding an event at the Forum on Marathon Monday when the bomb went off.
“We want to finish what we started, but couldn’t finish that day,” Azevedo said. “We’re going to reopen in a way that will erase all the negative vibes that are still lingering. I’m very much looking forward to it.”
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