Back Bay Restaurant To Reinvent For The Global Stage
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A Boston restaurateur known for her innovative Back Bay art gallery-restaurant space is ready to take on the world.
“My goal has always been to build a global brand with strong Boston roots,” Liquid Art House founder Ruta Laukien said. “Now, we found a partner with deep restaurant experience and a global footprint to make this dream a reality.”
Turkish restaurant group Doğuş Restaurant Entertainment and Management (d.ream) is partnering with Laukien to develop a new concept in the Liquid Art House space and expand beyond Boston, Bisnow has learned exclusively. D.ream is a subsidiary of Dogus Holding A.S., a Turkish corporation that includes car dealerships, retail, restaurants, construction companies and the country’s Garanti Bank. Its d.ream subsidiary started in 2012 and includes 170 restaurants in 10 countries.
“We are very pleased to announce our partnership with Liquid Art House,” d.ream CEO Levent Veziroğlu said in a prepared statement. “With this cooperation, we are happy to share our know-how and also strengthen our footprint in North America. We believe that we will achieve exciting new projects with L.A.H.”
This is not the first time a Boston culinary team has attracted international investors this year. Wahlburgers announced in January it had signed a deal with Shanghai-based Cachet Hospitality Group to develop close to 200 restaurants around the world over the next 10 years.
“Most people deal with domestic partners, but the world is a lot smaller than it used to be,” Massachusetts Restaurant Association Director of Government Affairs Steve Clark said. “This tightening of the world opens businesses up to more opportunities.”
Under the new venture, Liquid Art House will close for six to eight weeks once adjustments to its liquor license are approved. This gives time to renovate the space into its new image. The design, which Laukien calls more approachable than its current form, will feature more lounge-style dining along with some formal seating. Beyond the original space, Laukien added she has looked in Boston’s West End and Miami for the concept’s next locations.
"Liquid Art House, true to its name, has always been about moving forward with its food, drink, changing art and ever-evolving space,” said Christopher Haynes, a public relations consultant who works closely with Laukien. “Now, Ruta is taking it to the next level, and then some. Get excited, Boston."
While Laukien originally went to law school and worked on Wall Street for 12 years, she said she spent nearly 20 years batting around ideas for a creative art space. While she eventually lost her passion for banking, her commitment to her artistic endeavor never wavered.
“People always ask me if I’ve always dreamed of owning a restaurant, and I reply, ‘never in my life,’” she laughed.
Laukien said she eventually came around to the idea that food and drinks are as much a part of art as paintings and sculpture, so they should be encompassed all in a single space. Her concept made it to the second round of the 2011 Mass Challenge startup accelerator. Liquid Art House arrived in 2014 on the ground level of Related Beal’s the Arlington in Back Bay. The reviews for both the space and the food have been glowing ever since.
The new venture still lacks a name, but Laukien said many on her team are staying on board for the next chapter. Executive Chef Johnny Sheehan, who previously worked at Clio and Uni, has a hand in developing the globally inspired menu. A raw bar featuring ceviches and crudos is also getting built as well as an open-concept dessert plating station in the dining room.
“We’re still the same group,” Laukien said. “We’re just taking it to the next level.”
She has spent three years at her current venue, and many restaurants have sprouted up in Boston since hers first opened its doors. She recognizes the need to reinvent and jump at opportunities to excel in the notoriously cutthroat restaurant industry, but it is still difficult to let go of her initial vision.
“It’s bittersweet bringing someone else in because this has been my baby,” Laukien said. “But, the way I see it, it’s time to send my baby off to college.”