The owner of Roast Beast on Commonwealth Avenue got himself quite the social-media ride over the weekend, after he suddenly shut down with a sign saying it's all the fault of Massachusetts and Marty Walsh for forcing him to install an expensive ventilation system in his kitchen.
City officials are saying: Yeah, not quite, that they were willing to work with D.J. Lawton and let him replace a couple of electric flat-top griddles with a panini press but that he refused that and told inspectors he'd just shut the place down - and then he did.
At issue were two electric griddles Roast Beast had in its kitchens. According to city records, Lawton told an ISD health inspector on Oct. 25 that he only used them for toasting bread - but the inspector noticed a build-up of grease on sprinklers and the ceiling above the griddles, which could only come from using the griddles for actually cooking things, rather than just toasting bread. And the state fire code requires proper ventilation and a fire-suppression system for restaurant cooking.
According to city records, after the inspection, ISD forwarded the inspector's report to the Boston Fire Department. On Oct. 30, a BFD inspector visited Roast Beast and ordered Lawton to immediately remove the two griddles until he installed proper ventilation and extinguishers for them. But, in a return visit the next day, a fire inspector told Lawon he could eliminate the need for a ventilation system by replacing the griddles with a panini press - which would let him toast bread but not cook anything - and that he could have 30 days to make the switch.
Instead, records show, Lawton said no, he would simply shut the restaurant altogether - and so the inspector never forwarded him a formal remediation order he wrote up that would allow the panini press changeover.
In a statement, Jerome Smith, Boston's chief of civic engagement said:
The Walsh Administration has made clear that we want to work with any small business owner to ensure they can be successful here in Boston. There is some work to be done to ensure that Roast Beast is operating safely but every department involved is more than willing to work with Roast Beast to help them through that process.
10/25 inspection report (2.5M PDF).
10/30 order (77k PDF).
10/31 remediation followup (46k PDF).