Boston, MA - It should be easy to raise a quizzical eyebrow when you hear the words “neighborhood staple” and “Allston” in the same sentence. If nothing else, Allston’s a student-centric neighborhood. And with each successive wave of students, it would be natural to assume a high turnover rate would follow for many businesses. Yes, there’s always going to be a need for bars in a college town. But tastes can change so drastically, both your branding and your reputation will always be precarious at best. Which is why I had to chuckle when a roommate asked me a few months back if I knew of any "real" Irish bars in Southie. Life ain’t “Good Will Hunting,” kid.
But compared to other neighborhoods, establishments in Allston can have a surprisingly long shelf life. No part of the city is immune to sudden closings, as the relatively recent deaths of the Green Briar, the Bus Stop and the Sunset Grille will attest to. But O’Briens, the Model and Silhouette remain standing—and likely will until our future robot overlords say otherwise.
The Common Ground was the sort of bar that was so reliably unremarkable, its longevity was about the only thing you could remember. It wasn’t that the food was particularly bad or the atmosphere too hip for its own good. But it was just another Allston bar. Yes, they had a trivia night (truly, the bane of every red-blooded drinker’s existence.) So does every other bar in Boston. Yes, they had a rotating tap line. So does every single bar in Boston. In fact, about the only thing you might remember about it was that incident late winter when an aspiring concert pianist suffered critical injuries to her hand, skull and spine after its facade collapsed.
The injury resulted in an ongoing $500,000 lawsuit against Moss Realty, the owners of the building, and the Common Ground, alleging both failed “properly to inspect the façade and parapet of the property and maintain it in a structurally sound and safe condition.”
It wasn’t the first mishap to occur for the twenty-five year old bar. An early morning car crash in 2014 which caused significant damage to the building forced the Allston establishment to shut down—for all of an hour. The Common Ground’s sister location in Arlington lost their liquor license briefly in 2015 following a drunk driving incident which resulted in the death of one of its patrons. And when proprietor Bob O’Guin died unexpectedly at the age of 50 in April, it seemed inevitable that his business would likely follow suit. And so they finally did this past Sunday, at an age eclipsing the life span of many other Boston area bars.
“I found out at 9:30 this morning,” bar manager Ryan Piercy told the Boston Globe over the weekend. “I have no idea why.”
Common Ground’s Arlington Center location remains open for the time being and is being operated by O’Guin’s widow Laurie. It is uncertain whether the Allston closure will affect its service.