After 192 years, Boston’s landmark Durgin-Park Restaurant is planning to serve its last bowl of clam chowder. Owner Ark Restaurants says the Faneuil Hall outpost is no longer financially feasible because of rising costs and the loss of customers to fresher, edgier destinations.
Durgin-Park specializes in classic New England fare, from baked beans to lobster, and is known for its prime rib. The establishment has been losing customers to the trendier outposts of such local attractions as the Boston Seaport, according to Ark CEO Michael Weinstein. “We have an old restaurant that has a menu geared to people who want to reminisce about the old days,” he told the website Boston.com.
At the same time, he told local media, the bottom line has been hurt by soaring labor and insurance costs.
Weinstein said the restaurant’s fate has been in doubt for about a year, but left open the possibility that a buyer would emerge to keep the landmark open. Employees have already been alerted that Jan. 12 will be the restaurant’s last day.
Durgin-Park was generally regarded as the nation’s second-oldest restaurant, behind Boston’s Union Oyster House, which was founded in 1826. Durgin-Park opened a year later, while favorite local son John Quincy Adams was president of the United States. The location changed in 1877 to the restaurant’s current site in Faneuil Hall, a major Boston tourist attraction.
Fans say customers from that era would have no trouble finding their favorite dishes on today’s Durgin-Park menu. Like Locke-Ober, another Boston landmark that is now shuttered, the restaurant appealed to customers who valued consistency and familiarity above concessions to contemporary tastes.
The original restaurant was opened by John Durgin, Eldridge Park and John Chandler, a trio that would run it for the next 50 years. Following the deaths of Durgin and Park in 1877, Chandler moved the restaurant to another part of Faneuil Hall.
It would be sold in 1972 to the local Kelly family.
In a rare break from tradition, the outpost added pasta in 1997, saying it was an accommodation to the carb loaders who’d come to town for the Boston Marathon.
Ark purchased the restaurant in 2007. The company alerted investors in late December that it may have to shut the restaurant because of falling profits.