Boston’s celebrity streak continues; Aga’s Highland makes its debut in Roxbury

The Boston Licensing Board today approved plans for a burger restaurant that famed Briton Gordon Ramsay wants to open in the new Haymarket hotel with a liquor license he is buying from the heirs of Aga’s Highland Tap in Nubian Square, as well as plans for a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville that will replace the old McCormick & Schmick at Faneuil Hall Marketplace with exactly what you’d expect.

Ramsay’s eponymous but scaled-down burger shop in the new Canopy by Hilton hotel will offer ‘classic’ burgers and hot dogs, along with what his lawyer first told the licensing board yesterday would ‘shake up’ , until he remembered he was in Boston and so amended that to “strikes”. Ramsay already has a more expensive Ramsay’s Kitchen at the Mandarin Oriental in Back Bay.

Ramsay’s Shake Shack competitor will have nearly 200 seats on two levels, with an 89-seat outdoor terrace. Ramsay’s lawyer said he could open by the end of the year.

To lubricate his customers, Ramsay buys the liquor license of Aga’s Highland Tap on Washington Street at Eustis Street in Roxbury, which was for a time Boston’s only strip club operating outside the combat zone but which , in more modern times, was a somewhat more modest “bikini bar”.

Aga owner Agamenon Alexopoulos, who opened the bar in 1947, began offering nude dancing in 1979. The city immediately took action to prevent the thongs from coming off, and both parties spent more than 10 years in court fighting over the city. the zoning code, which prohibited commercial nudity outside of what was then a much larger combat zone, applied to Aga’s.

The city has consistently lost in court, for reasons such as the initial order being unconstitutionally vague to screw up the process for holding bar hearings. And so, every time the city tried to revoke or not renew his license, Alexopoulos went to court and won. Still, the case dragged on until 1992, when the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, which summed up the earlier action, ruled that the city did not have to pay Alexopoulos’ legal costs.

Later, Aga’s Highland Tap changed from fully nude women to women who only got into bikinis. Alexopoulos died in 2003; his widow, Alice, is the current owner of the business, which closed due to the pandemic, appeared to reopen about a year ago, and then closed.

Just yesterday, the Boston City Council voted to petition the state legislature for four new liquor licenses, three of which could only be used at the nearby Bolling Building (and one at the Strand Theater in Uphams Corner). The board must seek permission from the legislature because it has never given up its power since post-repeal days to decide how many liquor licenses Boston can have.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Buffet’s new Margaritaville at Faneuil Hall Marketplace will accommodate 296 tourists who want to experience the lyrics of songs enlivened by high-calorie fried foods and booze.

Since this is America, diners will be able to get not just a Cheeseburger in Paradise, but a Double Cheeseburger in Paradise, which they can accompany with their choice of margaritas, including the one called Last Mango in Paris.