Oak Hill Properties LLC finds new tenant for Great Scott space in Allston

Photo: Michael Marotta for Vanyaland

The campaign to save Allston rock club Great Scott appears to have met its end, despite an overwhelming response from the Boston music community and a fundraising effort that brought in nearly $200,000.

In a statement to Vanyaland on Wednesday (June 24), MainVest CEO Nick Mathews says the building owners and landlords at 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Oak Hill Properties LLC, have found a new tenant for its space.

Great Scott closed in March as the coronavirus pandemic began to hit, and word spread on May 1 that the live music venue would not re-open after its owner Frank Strenk, declined offers from Oak Hill to keep the club going despite an uncertain market for live music. A few weeks later, Great Scott’s longtime booking agent, Carl Lavin, reached an agreement with Strenk to purchase the club’s liquor license, gear, and intellectual property, and on May 26, independently launched a campaign through MainVest. That campaign, as of today, has raised $194,700 through 506 independent investors.

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But that was not enough to convince Oak Hill of Great Scott’s economic viability through the pandemic and beyond.

“Today we were forwarded a letter from the legal counsel representing Oak Hill Properties LLC, the landlord of 1222 Commonwealth Ave. where Great Scott has been a Boston institution for over 40 years, saying that they have entered into an LOI with another tenant,” Mathews writes. “MainVest requested an audience with Oak Hill through their legal counsel, which was denied.” 

It is not public who that tenant would be, but it is believed Oak Hill were looking for a marketplace or other, non-bar business to fill the ground floor space, which sits under residential apartments and shares a back wall with a restaurant. In addition to the investments through MainVest, nearly 25,000 people has signed a change.org petition trying to save the club.

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Mathews adds: “From the beginning of the campaign, it was communicated that all applications for the space at 1222 Commonwealth Ave. would be considered. Our understanding is that Carl submitted an application in the first week of June, which was never acknowledged, discussed, or followed up on until the rejection letter was sent today. With nearly $200,000 raised from 500+ local investors voting with their wallets for the future of Great Scott and two months remaining on the campaign, we believe that the commercial viability of Great Scott assuming the lease aligns with the outpouring of market validation from the community.”

What happens next is uncertain.

“As a financial intermediary, MainVest takes investor protection extremely seriously,” Mathews writes. “We want to remind investors and supporters that while the campaign is ongoing, all funds are held in an Escrow account with an FDIC-member bank. To the extent that the Great Scott campaign is unable to find a viable path forward, all invested capital will be returned to investors, fee-free.”

Vanyaland reached out to Oak Hill for comment, and its lawyer, John A. Mangones of Godbout Law PLLC, relayed a letter sent by Oak Hill’s representatives to Lavin on Wednesday. Below is the text of that correspondence in full.

“Dear Mr. Lavin,

We previously informed you that the commercial space at 1222 Commonwealth Ave. in Allston, formerly occupied by the Great Scott, was open to the public to rent. In an email dated May 12, 2020, I told you that ‘the primary consideration in selecting a tenant will be demonstrated ability to pay over the lifetime of the lease. So I would not bother applying without being able to identify concrete sources of funding.’ Oak Hill has received multiple applications from credit-worthy prospective tenants. Oak Hill is moving forward and has entered an LOI with one of those applicants, with the expectation that a long-term lease will be executed shortly.

While you also sent in an application on behalf of Great Scott, you did not submit any documentation as to Great Scott’s financial standing from which Oak Hill could assess your ability to pay rent over the life of the lease. There is still no timeline as to when Massachusetts will lift the shutdown for bars/music venues, therefore Great Scott would have to pay rent for many months without generating any revenue. Furthermore, Oak Hill has recently spoken to Great Scott’s current owner, Frank Strenk, who stated he would not sell the liquor license for less than $400,000. This alone is more than twice the amount that Great Scott has raised through its MainVest campaign, to say nothing of all other business expenses required to operate.

As part of the LOI it entered, Oak Hill is restricted from negotiating with other parties at this present time. As such, Oak Hill will not have any further communication with you about the premises.

Very truly yours,

John Mangones