City: Hawthorne damage found to be "significant"

October 4, 2012
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

A criminal warrant for his arrest might be the least of Anthony Athanas Jr.'s problems since structural problems with the decades-old restaurant might be more significant than initially thought.

"They opened the facade and found significant damage, unforeseen hidden defects with the masonry," said Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan. "The change order (cost) is almost as large as the entire job contract."

Athanas family attorney Theodore Tedeschi admitted the cost for the repairs has doubled but the work is not as serious as Donovan was led to believe.

"I just know what my inspectors told me and they said it was a game changer," Donovan said.

Last month Athanas was hit with a criminal warrant for failure to appear at an arraignment in Lynn District Court on a charge that he failed to maintain a safe structure, the long-shuttered Anthony's Hawthorne Restaurant on Oxford Street. The charge is a violation of the state building code.

Athanas was out of the country at the time and Tedeschi said he was unaware of the court date. He said since that mishap he has met with city attorney Vincent Phelan, who could not be reached for comment, and sorted out the issue.

Donovan said he is only concerned about the structural stability of the restaurant, which was closed in 2003. After a portion of the facade gave way in July workers got busy shoring up the building but Donovan said they were shut down almost immediately by Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the city and their own contractor.

OSHA and the city were unhappy with staging that blocked the sidewalk as well as a handicap ramp forcing pedestrians into the street. The contractor was concerned about some severe damage that workers had uncovered, Donovan said.

Once the facade was completely peeled back workers discovered that the shelf supporting the building's brickwork, which was installed at an odd angle, had completely rotted away and become unstable, Donovan said. The result was what had been "a five digit" fix doubled in price and Donovan said that made the Athanas family pause.

"At this point the concern is the cost of the change order would be more than the cost of the amount of work they want to put into the building," Donovan said. "The question is does it even approach the cost of tearing the building down."

While Donovan thought the family was in decision mode Tedeschi said the decision had been made and work was under way to shore up the store front.

"The staging has been revised so the mason has been there," he said. "Because it's an old building they'll find things as they go along but I expect the work to be completed in three to five days."

That is weather permitting, Tedeschi added.

Tedeschi said workers had a metal plate fabricated to place over the bricks to stabilize the structure.

"I'm confident and happy things are moving along," he said.

As for the court hearing, Tedeschi said he is hoping to put the case off until the building repairs are finished.

"Then I can do what I really want to do, apologize to the court," he said.

Donovan said he hopes Athanas' engineer is correct that the building can be repaired without stripping away the facade to shore up its structural integrity.

"We'll see," he added. "But when they double the price right off the bat you have to wonder if it's still worth it to repair."

Chris Stevens can be reached at



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