Just Crust Pizzeria expects early May opening at former Upper Crust site
The Just Crust Pizzeria – the Harvard Square shop that was an Upper Crust location until the sketchy chain went bankrupt last year – should be open within a couple of weeks, “before the students leave town,” co-owner Shannon Liss-Riordan said.
The restaurant went before Cambridge’s License Commission on Tuesday and won renewed seating for 18 people for the 47-49 Brattle St. storefront, as well as hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Takeout service will also return.
Customers can look forward to a new menu, introducing a breakfast pizza and dessert pizza, Liss-Riordan said, but including some classic pizzas as well.
“It’s in the same style, but we’re really excited about bringing in fresher, local ingredients,” she said. The offerings will rotate seasonally.
With manager Kevin Liss-Riordan, her husband, and attorney James Rafferty, Shannon Liss-Riordan also asked to serve wine and beer – as the previous owners had, but with a new license rather than having to buy one. Such a small operation would find it hard to find an affordable license to buy, even if one were available, Rafferty said.
Their bid was accompanied by support from members of the public during public comment and letters of support, including from the Harvard Square Business Association and students at the Harvard Law School, Shannon Liss-Riordan said. The school, which boycotted Upper Crust during its labor troubles, plans an “anti-boycott” to support the Just Crust, she said.
The commissioners approved the licenses with a mandated six-month checkup. The Liss-Riordans hoped to open in two weeks without beer and wine and get alcohol license approval from the state in time for summer.
The lease and assets of the Upper Crust pizza shop in Harvard Square were bought at auction in December by Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney who represented 121 former workers at the site in a lost-wages lawsuit against the owners of the chain.
Upper Crust’s problems began in 2009, when a U.S. Department of Labor investigation resulted in the company being ordered to pay workers $342,000 in back wages. In a July 2010 class action, several employees said they were forced by company executives to give back the federally mandated payments or lose their jobs. The court case goes on.
Now roughly a dozen re-hired workers can return with fair wages and as part owners of the Just Crust, Shannon Liss-Riordan said.
“We’re trying to draw as many as possible” to return, she said. “We’re excited to have them back.”
The Just Crust will “mirror the previous [business] in all but labor practices,” Rafferty said.
Manager Patrick Joyce is also to return and help the new restaurateurs get up to speed.
The commission also approved plans for Shabu at Kendall, a 132-seat hot pot restaurant with some sushi at 1 Rogers St., near Charles Park and the Cambridgeside Galleria mall in East Cambridge. (Thirty-two of the seats would be on a seasonal patio.) The hours would be 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days per week, with live music and poetry readings at times.
Artist Leslie Belkner began the process of launching a 20-seat “paint bar”-style eatery with wine and beer at 31 Belmont St., near the Watertown border. “This would be for an alternative night out, rather than going to a restaurant or bar,” Belkner said, allowing amateur artists to start and finish a painting in a single evening while enjoying light, prepared food and a glass or two of wine. South Boston and Newton each have such a business, she said, but Cambridge has none. It goes back before the commission May 14.
Sabra Grill, a small Middle Eastern restaurant at 20 Eliot St., got tentative approval to close at 11 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and at 3 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – keeping up with the late-night hours at the neighboring IHOP and especially at the direct competition, Falafel Corner at 8 Eliot St. Sabra closes at 10 p.m. now.“I’ve been asked if I can stay open later,” said Saide Sebaaly, owner for the past sixth months of the eatery, which has been in business for more than 20 years. Commission Executive Director Elizabeth Lint had to investigate whether there were immediate abutters whose opinion was needed on the change of hours.
This post was updated May 9, 2013, to correct that the Liss-Riordans are sole owners of The Just Crust Pizzeria. There were initially reports a partner would be involved.