Different Cactus Club Proposed for New Boylston Street Location

A new restaurant called Cactus Club Café is proposed for Boylston Street, but it would be located in a different location on the street than the erstwhile establishment of the same name and  also have no affiliation whatsoever with the old Cactus Club, representatives for the proposed restaurant informed the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) License and Building Use Committee during the group’s virtual meeting on Monday, July 10.

The proposed future home of Sushi by Bosso Ramen Tavern at 163 Newbury St.

The new restaurant, which is slated to open in about two years in the 25-story office and retail building at 500 Boylston St., would be the first U.S. location for the Cactus Club Café, a chain of upper-end fast casual restaurants with 31 locations across Canada.

The Cactus Club Café chain is also affiliated with two other restaurant groups – Earls Kitchen + Bar, which operates 68 locations across Canada and the U.S.,  including one in the Prudential Center; and JOEY, which has 27 locations across Canada and the U.S., said Jeff Granum, CFO of Cactus Club Café.

“I think we are one of the most successful restaurant groups in Canada as far as our scale goes,” he said. “We’re excited to grow across the U.S. over the next few years.”

The intended hours of operation would include 1 a.m. closing time on Friday and Saturday, with earlier closing times during the rest of the week. The restaurant also plans to offer brunch starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, said Trish Farnsworth, the applicant’s attorney.

The proposed Boylston Street restaurant would seat a total of about 400, with 234 inside and another 160 on the enclosed, year-round patio in the atrium, which would likely have a retractable roof, as well as another 80 patrons in the lounge, with seating for 20 around an oval-shaped bar and the remaining seats at individual tables.

The applicant is scheduled to go before the city’s Licensing Board next week for a hearing on its liquor license, which was obtained from the now-closed Ashmont Grill in Dorchester, said Farnsworth.

Trash removal would be the responsibility of the landlord, Oxford Properties Group, said Farnsworth, which handles the building’s other tenants, including other restaurants. Both trash removal and deliveries would be made via a loading dock at the rear of the building, she added.

The proposed Cactus Club Café has no plans to offer valet parking, said Granum, since it’s located in the Back Bay, which is “more of a walking neighborhood,” while the building also offers ample underground parking.

Granum added that the restaurant currently has no plans for entertainment but would offer ambient music at low volumes, although in some markets, like Toronto, the Cactus Club Café has a deejay playing the same music on a Friday or Saturday night.

Elliott Laffer, chair of NABB’s board of directors, advised the applicant that they would need to obtain a separate entertainment license from the city to host a deejay at the proposed Back Bay restaurant, and that happy hours aren’t legally permitted in Massachusetts.

Even though proposed signage is outside of the purview of the committee, Laffer also advised the applicant that a sign as big as what had been proposed would be “really unusual around here.” Granum replied they are working with the landlord to find more appropriate signage.

The original Cactus Club, meanwhile, had been in business at 939 Boylston St., since the 1980s, offering Tex Mex fare and its signature margaritas, before closing in 2014.

Granum said his restaurant group, which registered the ‘Cactus Club’ name years ago, was aware of the other Cactus Club and had even talked with the owner of the erstwhile Boston restaurant at one point.

In another matter, the committee heard from the would-be operator of the proposed Sushi by Bosso Ramen Tavern, which intends to open in the former lower-level home of the Double Zero plant-based pizzeria at 163 Newbury St.

Yasu Sasago, who owns and operates another location of Sushi by Bosso Ramen Tavern on Holyoke Street in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, said the Back Bay restaurant would offer sushi, in addition to Scandinavian and Northern European dishes, and that its proposed hours of operation are 9 a.m. to midnight daily.

The restaurant would seat a total of 91 patrons, with 65 seats inside and another 26 seats outside on the patio, said Sasago, who added that the establishment would only be getting only a cosmetic upgrade, which would include the installation of lanterns.

Although it intends to obtain the liquor license previously held by Double Zero from the landlord via Bankruptcy Court, the proposed Back Bay restaurant has already filed with the city for a Common Victualler (CV) license and plans to offer just food upon opening until it can secure its liquor license, said Nicholas Zozula, the applicant’s attorney.

While the applicant said it would be bound to the same restrictions on trash and storage as Double Zero previously was, Laffer advised them that “pickup times are really important” and urged them to adopt a pickup time later than 9 a.m. so as not to disrupt neighboring residents.

Conrad Armstrong, committee chair, told both applicants he would notify them on Friday of NABB’s determinations on their respective applications. He also advised Sasago that he would be expected to return to the committee once a hearing date has been scheduled with the city for the pending liquor license.

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