Just one month before baseball's Opening Day, the Fenway branch of Jerry Remy's Sports Bar and Grill has closed, seemingly for good.
The closure of the flagship Remy's location earlier this week, first reported by the Boston Restaurant Talk blog, was confirmed by the Red Sox. A sister company of the team owns the Remy's building on Boylston Street.
"Our understanding is that the current operators have ceased operations," Kevin Gregg, the Red Sox' media relations manager, said in an e-mail. "We cannot speculate on their plans or future uses of the site."
Reached by phone, Jerry Remy declined to comment. A lawyer for the restaurant's ownership group and the restaurant's general manager did not return requests for comment.
While the Fenway restaurant is owned by Jerry Remy and several partners, the Jerry Remy's locations in Boston's Seaport, Fall River, and Logan Airport are owned by different companies that license the Remy's name. Those locations are not expected to be affected by the closure of the Fenway restaurant.
The sports-themed restaurant, named after the former Red Sox second baseman and current TV color commentator, opened to great fanfare in 2010. Its roof deck offered sweeping views of Fenway Park, and attracted legions of fans during Red Sox home games.
Online, some fans expressed shock that Remy's, with its famous namesake and prime location, had somehow failed to turn a profit.
But behind the scenes, the business was plagued by financial difficulties, according to its former executive chef. From the start, Remy's struggled to attract customers during offseasons, a problem it apparently never solved. Meantime several key staff members, including managing partner John Mascia, bolted over the past year.
"In the wintertime, it was a ghost town," said Justin Blais, the restaurant's executive chef from 2011 until April 2014. "We would start baseball season in a hole year after year. We were trying to survive an entire year off 81 home games."
Blais said the restaurant's massive space, designed to accommodate hoards of fans, was exceptionally expensive to keep staffed, heated, and lit during the slow season from November to April. And its relatively high menu prices, calibrated to the expectations of visitors with open wallets, were beyond the means of the Fenway area's student-heavy population.
Last winter, Blais said the restaurant cut back to a skeleton crew and frequently sent servers home early. The business figured it needed around 70 customers a day to at least break even, but hardly ever hit that target.
"It didn't matter what promotions we ran — there was nothing we could do to correct the business in winter," Blais said. "A lot of our competitors in the neighborhood got smart and closed for lunch, or closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. But our ownership was not willing to close at all, and we lost money every time we opened the doors until the games started again."
Blais said the financial problems were so severe that, each spring, he would overhear Remy's managers calling suppliers and begging for more time to pay them.
"By January, we would have run through all our summer funds," he said. "Then we would spend the first third of the baseball season just paying off our back bills from the winter."
However, Mascia, a restaurant industry veteran who helped open Jerry Remy's in 2010, said in a brief telephone interview that business was good when he left last summer.
"I'm surprised that it closed and sorry it happened," Mascia said.
Blais said Remy would drop by the restaurant once or twice a week during the season, but had no involvement in day-to-day operations. He added that the legal troubles of Remy's son, Jared Remy, who pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend in 2013, had no impact on the restaurant's business.
"Fans loved Jerry and his wife, and felt bad that their son was just a screw-up," Blais said.
Executives with the Cronin Group LLC, the restaurant management company that runs the Jerry Remy's in the Seaport, said business at their location is strong.
"We're disappointed [the Fenway restaurant] closed, because it's the name brand," said Robert Ciampa, the company's chief financial officer. "But we're thriving here in the Seaport."
The Cronin Group was also an initial investor in the Fenway restaurant; Ciampa declined to comment on whether that loan had been paid off.