City Says High Street Place Can Keep its Patio Open Year-round
By Catherine Carlock, Globe Staff
Around lunchtime on Wednesday, there was hardly a table to be found at High Street Place. Bass-heavy funk pulsed through the five-story atrium of the downtown food hall, a smooth sound-track to the many dozens of office workers lining up for bibimbap and hamburgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and spicy tuna rolls.
And now they’ll have the option of enjoying outdoor dining all year long. The Boston Licensing Board on Thursday gave High Street Place the go-ahead to keep its patio open permanently — rather than from April through November — with an 11 p.m. closing time.
Fred Borges, managing director of Rockpoint Group, which developed High Street Place with affiliate company Rockhill Management, said the expansion will give people the option to sit outdoors in the colder months. The patio’s light fixtures, Borges noted, can also serve as heat lamps.
Six months after opening in the Financial District, High Street Place is averaging 4,500 patrons a day. It’s a rare downtown success story at a time when many employers have been pondering when and how to bring employees back to their buildings, and as many downtown restaurants report stronger midweek sales but big drop-offs in foot traffic on Mondays, Fridays, and weekends.
The food hall’s March 2 opening was among the first large in-person gatherings in downtown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and was attended by Mayor Michelle Wu. In the opening weeks, lines wound out the door.
“Candidly, we weren’t really sure if it was going to be a first few weeks thing, or if it was going to continue,” Borges said.
Downtown office workers such as Anya Prussin, 25, said the food hall is a convenient spot to grab a meal. She works nearby at 99 High St., her first job in downtown Boston.
“I love the variety. It’s really convenient for me,” she said Wednesday while waiting for her sushi order. “It gives me more time to each lunch instead of having to travel.”
There is a price to pay for convenience, she said. Sushi rolls near her home in Brookline run about $7, compared with the $9 to $14.50 that rolls cost at Fuji at High Street Place. But she appreciates the number of options for a quick work lunch.
Borges declined to disclose revenue figures but did say sales are exceeding Rockpoint’s prepandemic projections. It’s a welcome win after COVID-19 delayed the food hall’s opening by two years.
High Street Place wasn’t the only new food hall affected by the pandemic. Fenway’s Time Out Market pause operations during the height of COVID-19 and reopened in May 2021. And Hub Hall, an 18-vendor food hall at North Station, also had a delayed opening.
“It’s great to see it animated,” said Ed Nardi of Cresset Group, who came to High Street Place with colleagues on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of variety, which is what people want.”
Larger groups of office workers looking to reserve a table or two for team building have been some of the more consistent after-work customers so far, Borges said. Companies are seeking spaces where employees can get to know each other in person.
Rockhill Management has crafted a full slate of events for the space, including a DJ spinning throwback tunes on Thursdays — along with throwback games such as Jenga and Connect 4 — Bingo Night, and an upcoming Oktoberfest. There’s also a partnership with nearby boxing gym EverybodyFights for a rooftop workout followed by a beer and snack downstairs.
“The success has certainly given us the confidence to go forward and continue to invest in the programming,” Borges said. “If we can really cement it as a location that is dynamic, exciting, somewhere that’s comfortable for folks to be… that would be a huge win.”