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Closing time for Doyle’s moves a step nearer to reality

Empty chairs lined the bar inside Doyle’s on a recent day. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Closing time drew nearer Wednesday for Jamaica Plain institution Doyle’s Cafe, at a City Hall hearing to transfer its liquor license to a new Seaport outpost of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse.

The brief hearing before the Boston Licensing Commission was a key step in the $455,000 sale of the license, which will probably close next month, as will Doyle’s, the political hangout that’s held down the corner of Washington and William streets for 137 years.

Neither Doyle’s owner, Gerard Burke, nor the owner of the real estate on which it sits — Gerard’s uncle and former Doyle’s co-owner Eddie Burke — appeared at the hearing, which focused on Davio’s need for a license for its 15,000-square-foot restaurant in the lobby of a waterfront condominium building.


But in a statement Wednesday, Eddie Burke explained his family’s decision to sell the site of the beloved bar, which has sparked a campaign to save it since the news broke last week.

“It is our decision as a family and as owners of the property that we can no longer maintain Doyle’s as some would like or think practical,” Eddie and his wife, Joni Ross Burke, said in a statement. “We have therefore chosen to market the property for sale in order to secure our much-deserved retirement.”

After the hearing, Pete Gori, a longtime real estate broker who’s advising the Burkes, said they are open to all kinds of potential buyers for the site, including ones who would keep it as a neighborhood bar, if possible.

“My client has no preference” on how the site is used, Gori said. “We will talk to anyone, about anything, as long as it’s a constructive conversation.”

A few members of the campaign to save Doyle’s showed up at the hearing, as did Jamaica Plain resident Wayne Kurtz, who said the episode reflects the city’s misplaced priorities when it comes to neighborhood entrepreneurs.


“We need to do more to help small-business owners,” he said.

When the hearing was through, Kurtz challenged Davio’s owner Steve DiFillippo, himself a longtime Boston restaurateur, accusing him of profiting off struggling businesses to help his huge new restaurant in the Seaport.

“I have nothing to do with it,” DiFillippo responded. “If we don’t buy this license, it’ll be someone else tomorrow.”

Tim Logan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.