The Forum restaurant on Boylston Street was so close to the Boston Marathon bombings that shrapnel blasted through its windows, lodging in furniture and the ceiling. But in those tragic moments and over months that followed, the restaurant became a symbol of perseverance and resilience embraced by the city.
Workers were honored for helping bloodied victims. After closing for four months, the refurbished restaurant reopened in better shape than ever. But on Tuesday the owner said Forum would close on March 1, unable to overcome a very ordinary business problem — a rent hike.
The restaurant’s landlord raised “rent this year by nearly three times our current rate,” according to a statement by Euz Azevedo, the president of Boston Nightlife Ventures, which owns Forum.
“This rent increase makes it financially impossible for Boston Nightlife Ventures to operate and sustain a business at a location that means so much to us and to our city,” Azevedo said.
But the landlord, Boston real estate developer Paul Roiff, said Azevedo’s statement was “inaccurate” and that the rent hike was overblown. He said that the rent will increase, by an amount less than double the current rate, in November, and that the restaurant had been warned about the change before it opened in 2011.
Boston Nightlife Ventures had purchased the remaining five years of a 20-year lease from the former tenant of the space to open Forum, Roiff said. He told his new tenant “the rent would go up significantly in five years.”
“They were aware of it at the time that they leased it,” Roiff said. “They just didn’t do as well as they expected.”
Forum was just another Boylston Street restaurant for two years, before the Marathon bombings changed everything. A bomb exploded on the sidewalk outside the eatery during the April 15, 2013, attacks that killed three people and injured 264 others. The restaurant’s workers rushed to help injured patrons, using belts and rags to tie tourniquets on severed limbs.
As news of the bombings spread globally, the restaurant and Marathon Sports, near the site of the attack’s second explosion, became symbols of the city’s recovery.
The running shoe store was one of the first businesses to reopen. The owners closed for 11 days and quickly replaced a broken front window, blood-stained carpets, and stone work on the floor. Colin Peddie, the owner, said his insurance company approved his claims quickly and without any problem.
Meanwhile, Forum remained boarded up for months and was the last business to reopen its doors on Boylston Street. After the bombings, Azevedo had embarked on an extensive remodel of the first floor.
A massive bar was replaced by a smaller one, allowing for more dining space. The televisions and dark paneling were removed in exchange for white subway tile and maple-tone walls. Small cosmetic changes were made to the second floor, which did not sustain significant damage.
In the Tuesday statement, Azevedo said the restaurant’s insurance claims related to the bombing had also been “backed up by bureaucracy.” He declined to be interviewed for the story. A spokeswoman said the restaurant’s insurance claims process is ongoing.
Dozens of stores and other businesses near the Marathon route faced significant financial problems after the attack.
Many didn’t receive the full insurance reimbursements they expected after losing business activity, property, and inventory, said Jon Cowen, an attorney with Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP.
Cowen’s firm represented several businesses through a volunteer program created by the Boston Bar Association to help individuals and business affected by the bombings.
“I can’t imagine a large number of businesses came out whole,” he said.
Another financial victim of the bombing was Robin’s Candy on Newbury Street, which closed in December. The shop, which Cowen represented, received only a fraction of the $100,000 in damages the business claimed due to closures in the days and weeks after the bombings. The business also lost thousands of dollars in spoiled inventory.
The candy shop never fully recovered and the smaller insurance reimbursements took their toll, he said.
“It was a very slow recovery to get back to business,” Cowen said. “It was a hard hit and then a slow death over many months.”
Several business owners and customers along Boylston Street were upset by the news of Forum’s closing Tuesday. The restaurant was “a beacon of hope and recovery” after the bombings, said Bob Luz, the president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.
“We’re saddened by the fact that they will no longer be in business, but we will never forget what they stood for,” Luz said. “I suspect people will also understand that at the end of the day this is a business decision both on Forum’s part and the landlord’s part.”