An earlier version of this article mistakenly noted that the owners of the building in which Great Scott is located, Oak Hill Properties, “would not renew their lease, reportedly due to concerns that a concert venue cannot possibly be profitable following the COVID-19 crisis.” We regret the error, and have included a clarifying statement from Oak Hill below. You can read their full letter to DigBoston here.
On Friday, May 1, a shock and disappointment echoed through the Boston indie music community as legendary Allston venue Great Scott announced it would shutter. As general manager Tim Philbin wrote in a statement:
It is with a heavy heart today that I announce that Great Scott will not re-open. For 44 years Great Scott has provided entertainment and more than a few beverages to a loyal group of customers. From its inception in 1976 as a local bar featuring blues and folk performers to the 1980s and 1990s as a beloved college dive featuring cover bands and DJ nights, to the 2000s and its emergence as one of the best live music venues in the city, Great Scott has meant many things to many people. Through it all we’ve aspired to be a good neighbor to our community and a friend to all who walk through our doors. There is a sign that still hangs in the venue from the establishment that Great Scott replaced. The name of which was Brandy’s. That sign reads “Where Incredible Friendships Begin.” I’m glad we never took it down because it explains Great Scott better than I ever could. Take care of yourselves and each other.
The building, located at 1222 Commonwealth Ave at the corner of Harvard Ave in the heart of Allston, has played host to countless bands and dance nights for 44 years and is already being eulogized extensively. But why is Great Scott closing? According to a statement from the landlord, Oak Hill Properties:
The Great Scott has not had a written lease for approximately twenty years, and is therefore a month-to-month tenant. In February and March 2020, Oak Hill, responding to repeated noise complaints from residential tenants, communicated to Great Scott that to remain a long-term tenant it would have to change its live-music business model or put soundproofing in the venue. In communications with Oak Hill and its attorney, Frank Strenk, the owner of Great Scott, overtly rejected the possibility that he could change his business model to reduce the noise level, or add soundproofing to the venue. In response, Oak Hill dropped its requirement that Great Scott change its business or add soundproofing, and offered to enter into a long-term lease anyway.
In late April 2020, Mr. Strenk informed the Oak Hill principals that he has no choice but to close down the Great Scott because of the government shutdown in response to COVID19. There is no realistic way that the Great Scott will be able to host live music events at all in 2020, and likely would not be able to resume business until a vaccine or treatment for COVID19 is widely available. Furthermore, Mr. Strenk stated that even if he were allowed to open Great Scott’s doors tomorrow and operate at 100% capacity without any social distancing restrictions, it would take approximately six months to get the business off the ground due to complexities of scheduling live events. The Great Scott simply cannot maintain even its bare expenses over this time period without generating revenue, which is the sole reason Mr. Strenk made the hard decision to close the business.
Oak Hill never at any time served Great Scott with a notice to quit or otherwise took any legal step to terminate the tenancy. It was Great Scott that terminated the tenancy at will on May 1, 2020 due to the economic impact of government shutdowns in response to COVID19.
But who exactly is Oak Hill Properties?
According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Corporation Registry, Oak Hill Properties, LLC is managed by Khosro and Eshagh Sanieoff of Brookline. Anyone familiar with the Boston real estate landscape will recognize these names straight away.
According to a public records search on the City of Boston tax assessor’s site, Khosro “Ezra” Sanieoff, 72, owns an estimated $25 million worth of Boston real estate (for those looking, beware, on some listings, his name is spelled “Khorso.”) Those units are concentrated in Allston and Brighton, but the name is affiliated with other real estate trusts as well. Eshagh Sanieoff, 79, appears as a trustee for the Oak Realty Trust, which owns several units in Allston.
And the rabbit hole goes deeper. Khosro Sanieoff is also listed as manager for several other LLCs in Massachusetts, including: 1379 COM LLC, the owner of 1379 Commonwealth Avenue in Allston; Canal Plaza LLC, the owner of 53-85 Canal Street in the West End, valued at nearly $8 million; Chiswick Realty LLC, the owner of 1795 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton; Congress Plaza LLC, the owner of 320 Congress Street in the Seaport; Glenetna Plaza LLC, the owner of several abutting properties in Brighton; and Cummings Road LLC, the owner of units worth roughly $25 million in Brighton. New Kent Street LLC is also associated with a proposed development on 217 Kent Street in Brookline.
Other names that appear as managers of LLCs associated with Khosro Sanieoff are: Syroos Sanieoff (San Realty Trust), Mike Sanieoff (75-85 Main Street Realty, Congress Plaza LLC, Canal Plaza LLC), Farah Sanieoff (75-85 Main Street Realty, Congress Plaza LLC, Canal Plaza LLC), Shuhnam Sanieoff (Canal Plaza LLC), Shabnam Sanieoff (Congress Plaza LLC), and Ann Somers (LLAS LLC). In 2018, two Sanieoff brothers, Parviz and Syroos, duked it out in an ugly court dispute.
Those concerned about the non-renewal of Great Scott’s lease can participate in open mic collective Bummer City Historical Society’s letter drive for patrons and concerned citizens to appeal to Oak Hill Properties. There is also a petition that has collected nearly 2,500 signatures as of this writing.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Pandemic Democracy Project.
Hassan Ghanny is a writer and journalist based between Boston and Puerto Rico. His writing has been featured in the Boston Globe and WBUR, and explores the intersections of media, culture, and identity.