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Changes in Dudley Sq. restaurants

Haley House closes temporarily, new tenant for Bolling Building

Trea Lavery

Dudley Square’s restaurant scene and night life will take a hit soon as Haley House Bakery Cafe temporarily shuts it doors due to revenue losses, its directors announced last Thursday.

At the same time, Mayor Martin Walsh was scheduled to announce in his State of the City address Tuesday night the opening of a new live jazz restaurant in the ground floor of the Bolling Municipal Building, also in Dudley Square.

City officials released details on the future jazz venue, operated by Berklee College of Music professor Bill Banfield, Tuesday. The JazzUrbane Café, as the venue is called, would be the first to open in the 7,800 square foot space, located at the intersection of Warren and Washington streets, since the Bolling Building opened in 2015.

The venue will offer counter and sit-down service and will serve as a venue for local acts as well as internationally-renowned artists, according to a City of Boston press release.

“We’re working to create opportunity in every neighborhood and every community in Boston, and the JazzUrbane Cafe will serve as a place for families and friends to gather for community conversations, civic meetings, entertainment and so much more,” Walsh said in a press statement. “I’m proud to have this new venue in the Bolling Building, and continue creating spaces and opportunities for all.”

The two announcements, with positive and negative implications for the economic vitality of the business district, underscore the challenges facing entrepreneurs, neighborhood residents and city officials seeking to revitalize Dudley Square. According to a statement, Haley House Bakery and Cafe, which has been open since 2005 and is home to numerous community outreach programs, will be reevaluating and redesigning its business concept to better serve the community.

“Over time, every new idea that came in was added on to what we do, and that has really been powerful,” said Haley House Executive Director Bing Broderick in an interview. “At the same time, what I would like to see us do more is design our business and incorporate programs that were maybe more on the outside of our operations and integrate them into the central operation.”

Broderick specifically mentioned the restaurant’s transitional employment program, which provides employment and training to formerly incarcerated citizens returning to the community, as something he would like to focus more on. He also stressed that while the restaurant is the most public part of Haley House, there are other aspects of the organization that people don’t always see, including 110 units of housing that it owns in the South End and an organic, volunteer-operated farm in Roxbury.

Haley House Bakery Cafe has been a cultural hotspot for the Dudley Square area, providing a frequent venue for local musical performances, art exhibitions and poetry slams. Broderick said that he hopes this tradition will continue when they reopen.

“We feel strongly that Roxbury is rich in culture, and that it is important to provide a venue for it,” he said.

Despite the temporary closure of the restaurant, some of Haley House’s programs will continue running, including catering and wholesale baking, and its Take Back the Kitchen after-school culinary and nutrition education program.

Joyce Stanley, executive director of Dudley Square Main Streets, said that the cafe is not the only business closing in the area, with many business owners citing rising rent costs, crime and lack of parking.

“Generally, Washington Street is going to look very vacant,” Stanley said. “We’re planning a meeting with landlords on main streets in the city to talk about what we need to recruit businesses.”

Broderick said that he hopes the restaurant will reopen for the summer, but he will have a better idea once the board meets in a couple of weeks to discuss the future of the cafe.

“The cafe has been a platform for so much, and we look forward to re-envisioning that for the future,” Broderick said.

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