SoWa Boston and Laraland Roller Disco proudly present ROLL CALL @ SoWa! In partnership with the Skaters Lounge NYC, come to the SoWa Power Station this weekend. Rollerskate while some of Boston’s hottest DJs play your favorite music with an eclectic mix of House, Hip Hop, Funk, Disco, Freestyle, and Reggae.
Need skates? The Skaters Lounge NYC will have a limited quantity available for rental on a first come, first-served basis. Enjoy Italian-American comfort food classics from Johnny Pomodoro’s, and browse vendors all weekend.
The Boston Sports Club South End closed last spring after the property owner, GTI Properties, opted to takeover the space rather than renew their lease. Since the BSC closed, GTI has been remodeling the space to reopen a boutique Health + Wellness facility. The new facility will have four group studios, new gym equipment, remodeled “executve” locker rooms, juice bar, and saunas.
The move by GTI Properties to overtake this space is a bold one, because they have a mixed track record of managing businesses outside of real estate management. They’ve done a great job opening the SoWa Power Station as an event space, but they’ve struggled with the two restaurant spaces they’ve overtaken.
Setting those concerns aside, the gym is hoping to open in the spring. To stay up to date on information about membership fees and opening dates, check their web page, sowahealthandwellness.com.
When the Boston Sports Club South End closed at the end of March 2022, the neighborhood lost a large and popular gym. Rather than negotiate with the BSC for another longterm lease, the property owner, GTI Properties, made the bold move to takeover the space and redesign it as a health and wellness center that they would own and manage.
SoWa Health + Wellness eyes a January 1, 2023 opening
This spring, GTI Properties hinted at an October 2022 opening and to increase awareness and interest SoWa Health + Wellness hosted a free pop-up in the SoWa Power Station in June. The popular event included bootcamp, yoga, dance, and kickboxing classes by trainers who will be working at the gym when it opens.
Unfortunately, the remodeling efforts have required more work and time than initially anticipated and GTI Properties is now eyeing a January 1, 2023 opening. If you are looking for more information about classes, ammenities, and membership dues, GTI will likely begin sharing that at the start of the holiday season. Look for more information about the SoWa Health + Wellness center at this year’s SoWa Winter Festival, which is scheduled to open on Black Friday and run through Sunday, December 11th.
Yesterday, the Boston Restaurant Talk blog broke the news that Brasserie in the South End would be closing immediately. The restaurant which was overtaken by the property management company, GTI Properties and managed by Jeff Gates a former partner of The Aquitaine Group, which owned the Gaslight Brasserie du Coin had only been open for business since May 2021.
Minimal effort was put into the new restaurant which struck me more as a knock off of the original restaurant. It is unclear what will become of the space or if GTI Properties will continue to run the space. The same property management company has sunk significant money into updating and remodeling another former Aquitaine Group restaurant space (Cinquecento) just up the street. The initial plan was for that space to open this year as Roma 500. No word on the status of that space either.
SoWa Health + Wellness free pop-up will take place at the SoWa Power Station on Saturday June 11th, from 7:30 am – 12 pm.
SoWa Health + Wellness will be opening in the space formerly known as the Boston Sports Club South End later this fall but in June there will be a free pop-up at the SoWa Power Station located at 550 Harrison Avenue for members of the community interested in learning more about the programming that will be available when it opens. Free parking will be offered to all who come to check out one of the fitness classes offered on Saturday, June 11th.
8:00 am – 8:45 am – MoveStudios HIIT Bootcamp with Andrew LaCombe – @movestudios_boston A high intensity bootcamp powered by MoveStudios, one of Boston’s premier personal training groups!
9:00 am – 9:45 am – Yoga with Gina Molinari – @ginamolinari This is a flow class perfect for all levels. You will find this class is a wonderful way to begin your day while building flexibility and strength of body with calmness of mind.
10:00 am – 10:45 am – 305 Dance with Jessica Edwards – @miss_jeds 305 is an addictively fun dance cardio class that works you head to toe! Drop it low, tone it up, and shake it out to a fire beat!
11:00 am – 11:45 am – Kickboxing with Alejandra Bethermyt – @alebfitness Kick, punch, and move to the beat of a fun electrifying workout that will help you leave it all out there on the workout floor!
Earlier this morning The Boston Sports Club notified members that they have “made the difficult decision to close our South End location permanently. The last day to work out inside this club will be March 31st.”
I first wrote about this possibility in January in my post Is the Boston Sports Club South End closing? What remains to be seen is what happens next? In my January post I speculated one of two likely options. The first would be for another fitness chain to come in and rent the space, but the other option which I think is likely would be for the landlord, GTI Properties to overtake and manage it much like they are doing with two former Aquitaine Group restaurant spaces (Gaslight and Cinquecento).
Stay tuned for more details.
UPDATED March 2, 2022 at 5:00PM: GTI Properties announces they will reopen this space in the fall as a health and wellness facility that will have at least 5 studios and offer a variety of classes. The facility will be eliminating the pool and reusing the space for group fitness classes. More details about rates, membership and opening dates will be forthcoming in the summer.
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about the future of the Boston Sports Club South End. Current and former employees have confirmed that the BSC would like to sign a new lease and the manager has indicated that negotiations with the landlord, GTI Properties are ongoing.
The current lease is set to expire this spring. If the BSC lease expires, it’s not clear if the space would be re-purposed, another chain would takeover, or if GTI would takeover the gym. While managing a gym would be a stretch for GTI, anything is possible. Last year, GTI Properties formed the SoWa Hospitality Group and hired Jeff Gates (former partner of Aquitaine Group) to manage food and beverage operations at the SoWa Powerstation, Brasserie, and Roma 500 (slated to open later this year). I hope the BSC and GTI come to some agreement. The uncertainty is frustrating, because it disincentivizes BSC from making any further investments or to improve the facility.
Regardless of the fate of the BSC South End, if the space remains a fitness center, the gym will need to do more to fend off competition from the many boutique studios that have opened. While these smaller studios are more expensive, their popularity increased during the pandemic.
During the pandemic two gyms opened blocks from the BSC SE, Elite Training Group (operated by former BSC SE trainers) and Epoc Studios. But these are hardly the only boutique studios to open. A quick Google search will show a dozen such gyms within blocks of the BSC SE — several of them owned and opened by former BSC South End trainers who’s clients followed them.
Boston is where I live, but the South End is home. If you visit Boston, you’ll understand this city is defined by its neighborhoods. Each have their own history, architecture and personality. The South End was one of America’s earliest large-scale residential developments and much of that pre- and post-Civil War architecture remains. A good example is Boston’s Union Park in the South End, which was built in the late 1850s.
In the first half of the 20th Century, the South End would become the home for many immigrant groups notably Greek, Lebanese, Africans, and Caribbean/West Indies. It also became home for many in the city’s Black population (e.g., 395-397 Massachusetts Ave was home to Martin Luther King Jr. in the early 1950s). In the early 1970s many artists and gay men moved here for the cheap rent. By then the neighborhood had a well-deserved seedy reputation and was afflicted by urban blight and crime. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Boston’s population started to rebound and places like the South End started to flourish again. That gentrification would also result in Boston’s gay population moving out to Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Davis Square and elsewhere.
About The South End: The South End is a contradiction. It has some of the most affluent properties and toniest addresses in the city. Yet, it’s home to the city’s largest soup kitchen, Pine Street Inn, large public housing complexes, Boston’s safety net hospital Boston Medical Center and its neighboring Healthcare for the Homeless. Despite its affluence, these institutions (thankfully) aren’t going anywhere. It is this socio-economic mix that has saved the South End from becoming one-dimensional and gives it personality.
The South End is incredibly charming. Built on landfill in the mid-19th century as a residential district for Boston’s growing upper middle-class, hundreds of Victorian Bow Fronts were built and today it’s the largest enclave of urban Victorian residential architecture in the country. However, one of the most beautiful buildings in the South End isn’t Victorian, it’s Gothic Revival architecture. The Cathedral of the Holy Cross (est.1875) made from nearby Roxbury puddingstone and gray limestone stands in stark contrast to the Victorian and newer glass and steel residential buildings in the SoWa district of the South End. If you get a chance, look inside. The Cathedral was recently lovingly cleaned and restored and it is beautiful inside and out.
What to do in the South End: The South End is a picturesque, residential neighborhood with many parks to enjoy. If you spend any time here, you’ll likely find yourself walking through some of these green spaces. Some of our favorite parks are The Underground, Peter’s Park, Blackstone & Franklin Squares, and the Southwest Corridor, which divides the South End and Back Bay.
Aside from strolling through the parks and streets of the South End, I love the local theater companies that (when there isn’t a pandemic) perform at the Black Box Theater and Calderwood Pavilion. I think of the South End as a mini-theater district with The Huntington, SpeakEasy Stage and Company One all providing entertaining shows. Additionally, the First Friday of each month from 5-9PM is SoWa First Fridays where scores of art galleries and artisans open their studios to the public. The theater companies and First Fridays bring many people here for a fun date night or evening out with friends – especially when followed by drinks and dinner (but more about that later).
In addition to window shopping (there are many unique shops, complete listing here), enjoying the parks, or checking out the local arts scene, the South End hosts several markets and events. One of my favorites is the SoWa Open Market, which runs each Sunday (May thru October). It includes an artisan and farmer’s market, food trucks and a vintage market (this runs year round). There are also many interesting exhibits and events hosted at the BCA Cyclorama and at the new events and exhibition venue, The South End Power Station, but if all that sounds exhausting, don’t worry there are many places to relax.
Cafes in the South End: One of the things I love about this neighborhood is its many cafes and restaurants. Visitors may feel lost with very few national chains present (which by the way is a good thing), but it adds personality and allows local chains and sole proprietorships to thrive. In 2015, I wrote about the cafes in the South End. Since then a few have closed and a few have opened but the point is there are many places to meet a friend to enjoy a good cup of coffee and tempting treat or two. A favorite new coffee shop is MOD Espresso on Harrison Ave. If you’re in the n’hood, stop by and let me know what you think.
In 2014, I hosted a blind tasting to find out who made the best chocolate chip cookies in the South End. Should I write a new post about the many cafes or host another blind tasting to find the best chocolate chip cookies in the n’hood? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
Restaurants in the South End: Every restaurant I wrote about in my 2018 post, Best Places to Eat in the South End, have weathered the pandemic and remain open. If we can set the current pandemic aside, dining out in the South End has changed for the better in recent years. There are more affordable and casual dining options, and a greater variety of cuisines to enjoy.
The neighborhood has some of the best Italian and French restaurants Boston has to offer (too many to list). It also has great Asian restaurants (personal favorites include Elephant Walk and Myer’s + Chang), Eastern Mediterranean cuisine (Kava and it’s sister restaurant, Ilona as well as the fast casual, Anoush’ella are superb). Several excellent Spanish restaurants are home to the South End but Toro is my favorite. For sushi, I prefer the unpretentious Seiyo near Mass Ave. or Red Lantern. There are many options for pizza, but my favorites are Union Park Pizza (take out only) and PICCO (which stands for Pizza & Ice Cream Co.). In recent years, several Mexican and Latin restaurants have opened but my favorites are the relatively new Burro Bar and the longstanding Orinoco. I still blush thinking about my first time at Orinoco. In my haste to get inside, I accidentally knocked over Keith Lockhart. We fell into each other’s arms as we crashed into the wall so I suppose I can say I’ve hugged the famous conductor of the Boston Pops.
The list of great places to eat in the South End is long, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’re looking for a suggestion, ask me, and I’ll be happy to make recommendations based on your preferences.
Favorite Bars in the South End: There are many places to enjoy a cocktail or drink, but if you want to enjoy live music go to the tiny and quite famous, Wally’s. It is one of the oldest jazz bars in America (opened in 1947) and has hosted some of America’s greatest jazz musicians. A few blocks over from Wally’s is Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, and in the opposite direction, up Tremont Street is the Beehive. All three locations have excellent live music and are places worth visiting. Darryl’s and the Beehive also have kitchens that crank out consistently good food if you’re hungry.
If you’re a beer drinker, go to JJ Foley’s, an Irish pub that has been operating in the South End since 1909. This place has a lot of character and serves a mean shepard’s pie. On the other end of the neighborhood, is a relative newcomer by comparison, Five Horses Tavern, which opened in 2013. Both places will make any beer drinker feel at home.
If you’re looking for something more kitsch, check out the subterranean, Polynesian bar and restaurant with great tiki drinks Shore Leave or longtime neighborhood favorite, Delux Cafe with its ticky-tacky decor and quirky staff. The bars you’ll mostly likely find Sergio and me at is the gorgeous 20+ seat bar at Boston Chops and the welcoming lounge at Burro Bar South End (if you like spicy drinks order the el Diablo). However, I also love the gorgeous U-shaped bar at Barcelona Wine Bar and the cozy wine bar at Aquitaine (they have an excellent Sancerre rosé by the glass).
Gay Bars in the South End: Only a few gay bars remain in the South End. Cathedral Station is located on Washington Street and is the only downtown gay bar with a patio. They cater to the gay sports leagues and the bear community. You’ll usually find an older crowd here, but all are welcome at this friendly bar. The other gay bar in the South End is Club Cafe. Over the years it has become increasingly mixed but they still market themselves as a gay bar. Club Cafe has the Napoleon Lounge where cabaret music is performed, a dance floor in the back and a dining room and bar at the front of the house. If you’re gay and in Boston, you’ll eventually end up at Club Cafe.
While it’s true that Boston has very few gay bars, Boston’s LGBTQ+ community is redefining what is a gay bar and claiming space to meet, have a drink, gossip, watch a game, etc… whether the establishment is marketed as a “gay bar” or not. Good examples would be Boston Chops South End, Burro Bar South End, Trophy Room, Anchovies, and Elephant Walk. On any given night you will see gay friends meeting for drinks and as a result the local LGBTQ+ community has come to think of these places as ‘unofficial’ gay bars. While they are no longer around, virtually every gay man in Boston thought of Pho Republique, Rocca, Tremont 647, Sister Sorel, and Stella as some of Boston’s best gay bars, yet none were marketed as such.
If you happen to be new to Boston or planning a visit, feel free to reach out with questions. If you’re familiar with Boston’s South End, your recommendations are welcome in the comments section.
SoWa Open Market is each Sunday, 11:00a.m. – 3:00p.m. at 500 Harrison Ave.
After a 6-mos hiatus, the SoWa Open Market returns to 500 Harrison Avenue this Sunday. This year’s market includes the artisan, farmer’s and vintage markets. Spring Brook Farms, The Herb Lyceum, When Pig’s Fly Bakery, and Blackbird Doughnuts are a few of the 20 vendors who will be there every week. Here is a full list of vendors participating in this year’s Farmer’s Market.
In addition to the markets, many of the galleries and studios along Thayer Street will be open to the public. However, due to health and safety regulations, the market will initially open without the beer garden and food trucks but check back for updates later in the season.
The 2021 SoWa Open Market hours are Sunday from 11am – 3pm (Vintage Market 11am – 4pm) Sunday, May 2, 2021 through October 31, 2021.
For more information about the individual markets and safety protocols put in place to ensure everyone’s health and safety, visit their website, sowaboston.com/sowa-open-market.
Earlier this month it was reported on the Boston Restaurant Talk blog that SOWA Hospitality Group (a division of GTI, Inc.) would be opening a new French restaurant in the space formerly known as Gaslight.
The new restaurant called, Brasserie, will likely open the second weekend of May. Today, signage is being added to the 560 Harrison Avenue building and the parking lot is being freshly paved. Friends & Family events are scheduled for next week to get the staff and kitchen ready for a full opening and daily meetings are taking place with staff as the team readies to open.
I’m optimistic Brasserie will be successful because veteran restauranteur, Jeff Gates, has been overseeing the opening. SOWA Hospitality Group made the decision to make no discernable modifications to the space so Brasserie looks like a Gaslight reboot rather than a new restaurant, but perhaps that was the intention all along. Regardless, it will be good to see the lights come back on and the patio once again full of people.
The restaurant industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. By September 2020, WBZ-TV reported that 20% of all restaurants in Massachusetts had closed for good. Spring 2021 has reversed those trends as many restaurants come out of hibernation and news of new restaurant openings replaces the more depressing news of closures that we became accustomed to last year.
With an increased optimism comes new investment to bring life back to spaces that pre-pandemic were popular and profitable. Seizing this opportunity, GTI Properties has hired Jeff Gates to oversee the food and beverage operations at the SOWA Power Station, which is being converted into a special events space and to open and manage three new restaurants in SOWA – one of which will open next month.
Brasserie, located at 560 Harrison Avenue (formerly Gaslight) will open in May, according to a Boston Restaurant Talk blog post. If that timing is correct, a quick walk by suggests that not much will likely change in decor or design but Gaslight was a juggernaut so the key to Brasserie’s success will be staffing and management.
Roma 500 at 500 Harrison Avenue (formerly Cinquecento) will likely open later this year. Unlike Brasserie, significant renovations and remodeling are required. Roma 500 will have an enlarged outdoor dining patio and bar. No other South End restaurant has an outdoor bar, making this a unique (and welcome) addition to the neighborhood.
Finally, Pho on Thayer, at 460 Harrison (building B) will open in new space that was briefly used by Mohr & McPherson but is now vacant. Late last year Jeff Gates petitioned the city on behalf of GTI to transfer the Hungry I liquor license to Pho on Thayer so the restaurant will have a full bar.
Stay tuned for more details as they come available, I’ll be sure to share that information here.
A new pizzeria is about to open in the SoWa district of the South End neighborhood. The popular (and ever expanding) Portland Maine-based pizzeria, OTTO Pizza, will be opening at the 345 Harrison Avenue apartment complex (located across from the Ink Block in the South End).
No opening date has been shared, but I’m looking forward to the addition to the neighborhood. Pizzerias provide a more affordable dining and take out alternative in the South End, and this neighborhood needs more “fast, casual dining options”. As a result, I think OTTO Pizza will find a great deal of success filling this underserved and under-represented dining niche once it opens.
GTI Properties had Jeff Gates (former parter of The Aquitaine Group) speak at last week’s East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) – formerly known as the Old Dover Neighborhood Association. He shared GTI’s plans for two interesting projects; a new restaurant called Pho on Thayer at 530 Harrison Ave. and converting the long abandoned Power Station 540 Harrison Ave. into an event space.
This week Jeff will again be speaking on behalf of GTI at a Virtual Abutters Meeting on Thursday, December 10th at 6PM, seeking approval for the transferance of two all-liquor licenses for these properties. Jeff shared some preliminary sketches of the proposed Asian restaurant, Pho on Thayer that included decor, layout and design. I assume no plans have been created for the Power Station since none were shared but you can check out the progress on Instagram, here.
If approved, both projects would bring life to commercial space that has been mostly vacant and unused. However neighbors had questions about noise and traffic at last week’s EBNA meeting. If you live in the neighborhood and have questions about either project you can join the Virtual Abutters Meeting (info below).
The South End Business Alliance (SEBA) and South End Local have partnered to create a “multi-date” 2020 Holiday Stroll and with so many local and small businesses struggling I’m hoping more people will come out to buy local this year and show the South End businesses some love.
More than 90 local businesses and working artists will be opening their doors (of course there will be strict adherence to state guidelines and everyone must wear a mask and observe social distancing protocols).
Get Down at the Underground FREE public party at Ink Block on June 29 is being hosted at the Underground at the Ink Block park that is under the I-93 expressway. The event is being hosted to celebrate new murals in the park that are done by street artists, Dana Woulfe (Boston), GoFive (Boston), Greg Lamarche (NY), Indie184 (NY), Marka27 (NY/Boston), Matthew Zaremba (Boston), Muro (Spain), and Silvia Lopez Chavez (Boston).