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It's bye bye for Tom's BaoBao

Boston Restaurant Talk reports that Tom's BaoBao, a Chinese steamed-bun place in Harvard Square, has closed, its owners dreams of opening 30 bao-bao places across the Northeast at an end.

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I've now known a few restaurant owners as of late who were presented with lease renewals so steep as to make closing the only viable option. The landlords want to keep 100% of your revenue, basically treating owners as indentured servants. They seem to be more concerned with the prospect of loosing the highest rent even it means forgoing rent entirely.

The city and state should be taxing the shit out of vacant storefronts. Give restaurant owners a fighting chance.

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So are there any businesses that can survive in Harvard Square anymore? It feels like nothing is there these days...

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Whitney's, Shay's, Grendel's Den, Tasty Burger, Pinocchio's, Daedalus, Parsnip, Club Passim, Felipe's, Otto, Black Sheep, Flat Patties, Beat Brasserie, Charlie's, Alden & Harlow...

I could go on. Not to say rent is easy in Harvard but I don't get these arguments that the place is dying, or, given the places I listed, short on locally owned businesses. Didn't quite make it past restaurants but there are other types of businesses there, too. Cardullo's, Harvard Book Store, the hardware store, the luggage store, a cobbler, Goorin Bros., ...

Again, I know Harvard is a competitive space but it doesn't seem impossible.

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Local business can not survive with the NNN leases being favored by landlords as of late

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I think I like the idea of a tax surcharge on vacant property, not just storefronts but residential as well. I’d like to hear from economists on this, though. I also have concerns about enforcement, and about unintended consequences at the margins. Let’s say a tenant still has a lease but has closed the business and is in bankruptcy court... doesn’t seem like sticking the landlord with a vacancy surcharge in such cases would either be fair or advance any policy objectives.

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Obviously BostonDig and Bob Leponge has never been a landlord or a property owner.

A tax surcharge on vacant property AFAIK is illegal.

I can tell you as a property owner/landlord it is NOT that easy to find a residential tenant or business tenant. And you do NOT blindly just take ANYONE without knowing if he/she/they have strong finances or have a history of abruptly abandoning ship. This may be the reasons why you see vacant storefronts... money/profit aside, the landlords may simply have not found the right tenant.

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I have been a landlord, and I have carried property empty when I couldn't find suitable tenants.

Perhaps you are conflating what is in my own narrow short-term self-interest with what I believe to be sound policy?

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Your previous reply of "I think I like the idea of a tax surcharge on vacant property, not just storefronts but residential as well...." when you were a landlord yourself sounds like you have not been one in a LONG, LONG time and lost touch. Any former or current property owner/landlord would NEVER say that. EVER.

And so whats the idea of the illegal tax? To force or motivate you to compromise your principles? Accept a resident or business that may not last a few months? (I'm sure your response is "Better a bad tenant who can't pay rent than no tenant at all!") Get you to sell the property?

In my 40 years of owning a big 10-unit apartment complex, There were few times where a couple of units were vacant for as long as 10 months. I was never tempted to accept candidates who had questionable finances. I was not THAT desperate to just take in anyone regardless. In hindsight the rental market was poor during that period, because coincidentally numerous realtors were asking me because I couldn't fill in those two units, if I was interested in selling the whole building. (I laughed them off.) I did eventually fill those units and the market did get better.

To end this nicely... if you ever see a vacant storefront thats been like that for while, why not just contact the landlord/owner and ask why the space has not been filled? The landlord will give you a legit reason that you just cannot dispute.

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It's killed some popular restaurants in the Boston area over the past decade or more. Same with locally-owned stores. And I agree about taxing vacant storefronts. They hurts neighborhoods.

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...Harvard Square will be nothing but banks, CVS and Starbucks. My city was gone.

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Starbucks down to one in the square. (Not complaining.)

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you would have to sell an astronomical amount of bao baos to make rent, let alone all your other expenses. feel bad for them, but tbh the baos weren't anything special either.

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