Op-Ed: Save Doyle’s

By Mary Battenfeld, Jacob Bor, Ed Burley, Ziba Cranmer, Melissa Hamel, Allan Ihrer, Kris Johnson, Mara Voukydis, Terry Mason, and Beth Meltzer

“Save Doyle’s”?  What does that mean?  The beloved tavern closed its doors over one week ago, and the building’s owner is selling it.  So what, many have asked, is there to save? What is so special about Doyle’s? And why should we continue to care? In fact, the residents of Jamaica Plain have a significant interest in what happens next at 3484 Washington Street. 

 “Third places”–public spaces people frequent outside home and work, play a critical role in strengthening the fabric of a community. As the Brookings Institution has stated, they are “locations where we exchange ideas, have a good time, and build relationships.”  They are places where people of diverse identities and backgrounds can gather on equal footing, called by some the “living room” of society.

 3484 Washington Street has, for 137 years, served as a vital “third place” to successive generations of Bostonians.  The pub known as “Doyle’s” has undergone changes over the years, but has always remained a community gathering space, a nerve center of the neighborhood, a place where politics and civic engagement rivals engagement with our Boston sports teams, and a bedrock symbol of the strength and diversity of Jamaica Plain. This wasn’t an accident. As long- time Doyle’s waiter and local musician Rick Berlin wrote in his book, The Paragraphs, the owner of the Pub “made sure that no prejudice was allowed. He made it a rule: if some a*****e was racist or homophobic, he was banned for life.” The Doyles, and more recently the Burke family who took over the business in the 1960s, made and kept Doyle’s a place that welcomed everyone.

 People need places to live in Boston, especially places affordable for low and middle income people.  And they also need places to get together, places like Doyle’s. Former Mayor Ray Flynn said that Doyle’s is exactly “what we need more of in our city. Not just some big, high-rise office buildings.”

 Recent history could foretell a sad future in which Doyle’s becomes a dense, market rate housing-only development. Fortunately, the property is subject to existing deed restrictions to protect the Stony Brook conduit, which runs under most of the current building.  In 2005, the easement was conveyed to the current owners for $5000 by the Boston Water and Sewer Commission with the condition that the agency retain access, in perpetuity, to the culvert. The deed requires that the land on which the original tavern sits be limited to a “one-story building.” Why tear it down, if nothing more than a single-story building can legally replace it?

  We are grateful to the Burke family for their stewardship of this resource over many years, and we treasure the memories that Doyle’s has for so many.  But make no mistake.  This is not a quixotic mission to preserve a past that is gone.  This is a call to action to make sure that our children, and the children of the new neighbors arriving now, and next year, and the year after that, have a place to gather like the one we have enjoyed for all these years.

 Our call to action, stated in a petition (https://tinyurl.com/savedoyles) that has already gathered over 2200  signatures,  is for a public and transparent process that will enable developers, operators and community members to agree on an economically feasible plan that will preserve the 137 year legacy of Doyle’s as a vibrant tavern and community space.

 If we take collective action now, we can truly “Save Doyle’s” as a neighborhood third place for generations to come. Help us. Sign and pass on the petition, and let your friends, neighbors, family and elected officials know that you care about preserving Doyle’s as the inclusive community space it has been for so many years.

      Mary Battenfeld, Jacob Bor, Ed Burley, Ziba Cranmer, Melissa Hamel, Allan Ihrer, Kris Johnson, Mara Voukydis, Terry Mason, and Beth Meltzer are Members of the Save Doyle’s Group (www.facebook.com/SaveDoylesCafe)

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