No more piano singalongs: Two restaurant operators are seeking to lease the old Jacob Wirth on Stuart Street and turn it into a more modern sports bar named JW's Sports Bar and Restaurant.
William Gateman and Nancy Maida formally asked the Boston Licensing Board this morning to let them buy the restaurant's liquor license. Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce, however, deferred any action on the request until after they meet with three neighborhood associations to discuss their plans. One of those groups, the Midtown-Park Plaza Neighborhood Association, meets next week.
Gateman and Maida's attorney, Mark Zuroff, said the new eatery would use the same space as the current restaurant , which opened at its present location in 1878 and closed last year due to water damage after a fire in a floor above the restaurant.
Zuroff said his clients would build out the new restaurant - and renovate the rest of the building - with "due respect" to the historic nature of the exterior and interior of the Greek Revival structure, which both Boston and the National Register of Historic Sites have designated as a landmark. He said the building "is fairly run down" and that fixing it up would "really require someone with capital to come in and renovate it."
Following the hearing, Zuroff estimated it would take nine months to a year to renovate the building and open the restaurant once the liquor-license transfer is approved, in part because of the extent of the work needed, in part because of the difficulties of finding contractors these days.
Inside the bar in 1977:
1877 poster (from the BPL print collection) when Wirth's restaurant was located in a different building less than a block away and when Stuart Street was called Eliot Street):