Just Crust isn’t renovating – just closing, but may seek to reopen in a new location

The Just Crust on Brattle Street in Harvard Square was closed when owners opted not to renew its licensing by the December deadline. (Photo: The Just Crust via Facebook)

The Just Crust pizza shop in Harvard Square isn’t closed for renovations. It’s just closed.

Though it shut down officially more than four months ago for renovations, with a sign saying so going up July 15, the owners – after equivocating late into the month, according to the License Commission’s executive director, Elizabeth Lint – did not renew their licensing by the December deadline. On Monday they responded with a statement through a representative.

“We will not be reopening this location. The lease is up and the rents are high and going up higher,” said Becky Lopes-Filho, operations manager at the 49B Brattle St. eatery that opened more than four years ago, rising from the financial and legal mess of the pizza chain known as Upper Crust.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, co-owner of the Just Crust Pizzeria in Harvard Square, shows off a proposed menu in April 2013. (Photo: Marc Levy)

After the chain went bankrupt and closed several locations, lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan switched from representing pizzeria workers to becoming co-owner of their shop. She and husband Kevin Liss-Riordan took over in April 2013, serving slices with a model that was to turn employees into part-owners with fair wages. The eatery, with sandwiches, soups, salads and calzones as well as slices opened with a swell of support, much of it from Harvard University clubs and students. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and city councillor Leland Cheung even came by the June 2013 grand opening.

The Liss-Riordans also attempted a restaurant in Brookline called Alere, taking out a $500,000 loan in June 2012 to convert a space on 202 Washington St. that never came together. Over the summer, selectmen voted to take back the Alere licensing if it wasn’t being used or transferred by Dec. 27.

“We have not been trying to hide this. The Building Department and licensing office has been aware of the actual physical building delays that have been a lot longer than anticipated,” said attorney Robert Allen, appearing for Kevin Liss-Riordan.

But there may be a buyer for Liss-Riordans’ interests in Brookline, Allen said; and there may be hope for The Just Crust in Cambridge – good news for the customers wondering about the eatery’s future.

“We are considering the possibility of other locations to reopen in the future,” Lopes-Filho said in an email.

The Liss-Riordans did not respond directly to messages left seeking information about the property, but Lopes-Filho said, “The Just Crust appreciates the support of the Cambridge community for these last four and a half years.”

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