Kaitlin McKinley Becker

Rent Increases Pose Problems for Back Bay Businesses

In the Back Bay, there are 15 restaurants on Newbury Street alone that are up for sale

Despite being one of the most popular parts of the city, businesses in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood are finding it hard to keep their doors open due to the cost of rent.

The long-time Boylston Street restaurant Chilli Duck has shut down. There’s a sign on the door alerting customers the the restaurant just can’t generate sufficient profits to sign a new lease with tremendously high rent.

“With escalating rents going up two or three percent every year, and same store sales being flat, the numbers just don’t work,” said Charles Perkins, who runs the Boston Restaurant Group which specializes in selling restaurants. “The Back Bay is not a desirable location anymore, it’s just too expensive.”

Earlier this year, Tapeo on Newbury Street shut down after more than two decades.

The owners cited “oppressive rents” and told Eater Boston, “The ongoing lease negotiations with the landlord were not successful. After taking into consideration the unreasonable rent increases and lease terms he is demanding, we decided that it is no longer possible for us to stay.”

Rachel Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston, which tracks the restaurant industry, says, "We’ll see more of these big, out-of-town chains coming in and taking over because they have the big pockets.” 

She says restaurants, especially smaller, independent ones, whose long-term leases are coming up, are finding a much more expensive Back Bay.

“So much has changed since they first signed that paperwork and landlords are just driving up rent as far as they can go now,” said Blumenthal. “And getting away with it.”

Experts say expect to see even more changes. In the Back Bay, there are 15 restaurants on Newbury Street alone that are up for sale.

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