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Joshua Tree bar and restaurant in Allston closes; developer working to complete deal to buy property

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  January 8, 2014 12:15 PM

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The Joshua Tree bar and restaurant in Allston has closed permanently and a deal is in the works for a prominent Boston development and real estate firm to buy the property.

The Mount Vernon Company is in the final stages of purchasing the location at 1314 Commonwealth Ave., according to owners on both sides of the transaction.

Bruce Percelay, chairman and founder of Mount Vernon, said his company has not yet picked a tenant to fill the space, but is in talks with several businesses. He said "ideally" the space will become home to a "specialty grocer."

The retail space is on the same block where Mount Vernon is constructing the final of three new high-end, eco-friendly apartment buildings, surrounded by several other residential complexes the company owns and has recently renovated.

The developer has dubbed the area the "Green District" because the company has focused on designing environmental-friendly buildings and encouraging tenants to follow certain sustainable living practices.

While the overhaul of that part of Allston has prompted some concerns over gentrification, many have said they welcome the changes, including the latest move to close Joshua Tree.

Before the developer began rebuilding the couple-block area a few years ago, much of the property housed a series of run-down, low-level warehouses and garages. The poorly-lit area drew some problems with loitering and graffiti, according to police.

Neighbors called regularly to complain about noise, especially in the early morning hours just after Joshua Tree would close, police said. The bar also drew some patrons who parked illegally on surrounding streets. The bar itself was cited by police several times for alleged underage drinking and other violations.

"We look at it as a big, big positive for clamping down on crime in that area," Sergeant Michael O’Hara, who runs the community service office of the Boston Police Department station that oversees Allston and Brighton, said of the bar's closure and the other changes in that area. "We had a lot of community quality of life issues down there."

Joshua Tree closed its doors for good on Jan. 1, said Giuseppe Arcari, who co-owns the bar with Julian Bolger and Martin Murphy.

"Unfortunately, the business just wasn't there anymore," he said, citing increased competition from other neighborhood bars.

Arcari said he expects the sale to Mount Vernon to close by the end of the month.

The Boston Restaurant Talk blog first reported Wednesday on the establishment's closure.

Arcari said he and his ownership partners opened a bar at the space about six or seven years ago. The bar was called Tonic, at first, before the name was changed to Joshua Tree, he said.

In the past few years, the bar had undergone a series of changes.

In the summer of 2011, it overhauled its interior and changed its named to Barley Hall. Less than a year later, the name was switched back to Joshua Tree.

City and state land records show the 5,800-square-foot commercial property is assessed at $2.3 million – $1.7 million accounts for the value of the building, which has about 10,000 square feet of space on two levels, a basement and a ground floor.

Another Joshua Tree location in Somerville's Davis Square will remain open, according to Arcari. Some of the 50 employees from the Allston location now work at the Somerville spot, others were laid off.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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