MELROSE

By Jessica Sacco, jsacco@wickedlocal.com
Posted Apr. 22, 2015 at 6:04 PM

Ab Fab to relocate to Highlands area

Lori Muse's Absolutely Fabulous will soon relocate to the Highlands, leaving the Main Street location up for rent.

Absolutely Fabulous is making the move off Main Street to Franklin Street after legal issues forced them to vacate their former location.

Owner and chef Lori Muse is partnering with Tony Sun of Corinthian Outreach to open Ab Fab Highlands in the late summer/early fall.

The new business will be located on the first floor of the historic Corinthian Hall, at 523 Franklin St.

Muse and Sun are currently in the permitting phase to refurbish the 2,000 square foot space and are ready to start fresh in an upcoming part of the city.

“We both thought it’s a great idea to put the restaurant over here as part of the Franklin Street renovation,” Sun said. “It will be a great addition to the community.”

Sun said Muse originally approached him in last summer about opening another location in conjunction with the 454 Main St. restaurant, which had been in operation since 2009. By the fall, however, problems between Muse and her landlord, Ernest Walker, who owns the Main Street building, began to arise.

David Lucas, general counsel for Muse, said she had experienced several difficulties with Walker over the last few years.

In order to remain a Main Street business, Ab Fab was required to give a notice of “an intent to renew” the lease to Walker, which Lucas said Muse completed.

“There was a miscommunication last fall and he did not accept a renewal of her lease,” Lucas wrote in an email to the Free Press. “The landlord believed the notice was late and refused to discuss the matter with the restaurant owners.”

Walker then began eviction proceedings. But over the winter at the Malden District Court, Lucas said both parties came to an agreement that the restaurant would remain open through May.

“Very recently, however, the landlord locked the doors without warning, and this unilateral action by the landlord is now being litigated in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court,” Lucas wrote. “This seriously affected the lives of Absolutely Fabulous’ employees, and private functions for customers had to be cancelled with very little notice, including a charity event.”

Thomas Callaghan, who represented the Walker Family Trust during the eviction process, did not respond to a request for comment.

Ab Fab then proceeded to file bankruptcy to ensure the restaurant could stay open temporarily through the spring. Muse’s bankruptcy lawyer, Chaz Fisher, declined to comment on the matter.

Jordan Shapiro, who represented the Walker Family Trust during the bankruptcy proceedings, said the court awarded them full possession of the premises. The Walker family, he wrote in an email, is now working on getting a new tenant in the space, which is available for rent.

“It is very unfortunate that this particular landlord did not recognize the economic value and popularity of Absolutely Fabulous Restaurant, especially at this central, downtown location,” Lucas wrote. “…Certainly, this landlord has the right to rent his premises to another business at this point, but we would have appreciated a dialogue — any dialogue at all, in fact.”

 

A fresh start

Ab Fab Highlands will rent the space formerly occupied by The Dance Gallery, which also had to move locations because the bathrooms did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sun, who formerly owned the entire building, sold the property to Cambridge West Partners, a commercial real estate investment company, on April 14. He will still manage Corinthian Hall’s second floor function venue, and the new first-floor restaurant with Muse.

 The two businesses will complement each other, as residents will be able to book functions and events at the hall, and have catering provided by Ab Fab. The restaurant will continue to hold events as well.

Ab Fab will remain an Italian fine dining spot, but with additional choices for families with children.

Sun said the space, although slightly smaller than the Main Street location, will have a more open feel to it.

“When you go in, you can see everything — the bar, the tables, the kitchen,” he said. “It’s a big open space. And people can see everything from outside as well.”

Now that a plan is in motion, Sun hopes that going forward residents can support Ab Fab in its new space and forget any negative issues associated with the move.

“I think we need to put the past behind us,” he said. “Obviously the landlord dispute was unfortunate, but I think people shouldn’t dwell on that. They should really look forward to the new location.”

 

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