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Great Scott booking agent and Mainvest launch campaign to save rock club

Photo: Michael Marotta for Vanyaland

It’s been less than a month since Great Scott announced it was closing after more than four decades on the corner of Harvard and Commonwealth avenues, and the public reaction was significant. Now, a campaign has been launched by its longtime booking agent, Carl Lavin, to save the Allston rock club.

Lavin has teamed up with Mainvest, a Salem-based investment crowdfunding platform specializing in assisting local businesses, to raise the necessary money to re-open Great Scott and keep it open. The venue’s booking agent since 2004, Lavin has agreed to terms with Great Scott’s longtime owner, Frank Strenk, to transfer the venue’s intellectual property and its liquor license, and using capital raised through Mainvest, will attempt to negotiate a lease with Oak Hill Properties, the current building owners at 1222 Commonwealth Ave. Lavin has created a new business, Chowderquake, LLC, to oversee the efforts and, hopefully, run Great Scott as it was operated prior to the pandemic.

Oak Hill told Vanyaland earlier this month that it made repeated efforts to Strenk to allow Great Scott to remain open, one as late as May 3, but that Strenk declined due to effects from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, most notably the uncertainty surrounding live music and the fact that the room would be shuttered indefinitely with no incoming revenue. Great Scott has been closed since mid-March, and the space is currently up for lease.

Lavin and Mainvest launched their campaign yesterday (May 26), with a goal of raising at least $150,000 in its first 85 days.

“A pillar of Boston’s vibrant arts community, Great Scott has offered a stage to local musicians, comics, drag queens, and touring acts alike, and welcomed music fans of all kinds in its distinctly unassuming fashion,” states the Mainvest campaign. “Spaces like Great Scott represent the life force of a neighborhood. As a landmark business for over 40 years we believe establishments like Great Scott are essential to the fabric of neighborhoods, and in light of COVID-19 will need the community’s support to preserve the space for years to come.”

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After news of Great Scott’s closing first made headlines, more than 25,000 people have signed a change.org petition, and a fundraiser for its staff has sold more than 2,000 t-shirts (including one seen yesterday on NBC Sports Boston’s simulcast of the Felger and Mazz radio show, worn by on-air personality “Big Jim” Murray). In addition, a GoFundMe campaign for the staff of Great Scott, and its sister venue, O’Brien’s Pub, launched by its bar manager Tim Philbin, has pulled in more than $32,000 from 400-plus donors.

“We heard your support loud and clear with the petition circulated earlier this month,” the statement continues. “From city councilors, music industry vets, to all of the concerned citizens, all of your voices have been heard. A unique opportunity is now in front of us to all play a part in keeping the dream alive. Chowderquake, LLC was created for the sole purpose of acquiring and operating the Great Scott and continue its operations as a music venue and is seeking investment to cover the acquisition and build-out costs to keep the Great Scott alive. To do this, Chowderquake, LLC intends to enter into agreements with the current owners of Great Scott to acquire the rights to the d/b/a name ‘Great Scott’ as well as its existing liquor license. Chowderquake, LLC also intends to negotiate a lease for the location of the Great Scott to continue its operations.”

Lavin says working with Mainvest was decided upon because it allows investors to become a part of the process and see a return on their investment. Mainvest welcomed the opportunity to partner with Lavin and the overall cause, and says it can allow people of all financial backgrounds to put some money behind the causes they believe in. The minimum investment for this campaign is $100.

“Mainvest’s mission is to empower communities to invest in main streets, not wall street,” Mainvest co-founder Nicholas Mathews tells Vanyaland. “Great Scott is a Boston institution and their investment campaign is emblematic of a changing landscape where community stakeholders can take ownership of how their neighborhoods develop. We’re proud to be able to work with Great Scott, alongside the other amazing entrepreneurs on the platform, as Bostonians come together to invest in rebuilding main street.”