Two people were hurt, including one woman who suffered significant injuries, when the Common Ground Bar and Grill in Allston, Massachusetts, partially collapsed in early November. The woman who suffered critical injuries, became trapped under blocks of concrete that fell on her when the front of the building collapsed. The second person suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the incident, while people inside the restaurant were safely evacuated. Witnesses said the collapse felt like an earthquake, and officials said it was lucky there weren’t more injuries given how busy the area outside the restaurant can be at that time of day.
Allston Restaurant Façade Fell
On Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, as guests were inside the Common Ground Bar and Grill restaurant on Harvard Avenue in Allston with people walking outside, a portion of the exterior of the building collapsed, causing nearby buildings to shake and trapping a woman under concrete. The collapse, involving the restaurant’s outside wall and sign, happened around 3 p.m.
Jonathan Aguirre lives across the street from Common Ground and was at his window when he saw the exterior façade fail, and concrete land on the woman. He raced down to help her. Describing the scene, Aguirre said the woman and her friends were about to cross the street when the building collapsed and landed on her. It sounded like a truck rolling over. He noted the force of the collapse caused his building to shake.
Aguirre helped the woman’s friends pull the concrete blocks off her. He said it took three or four people to move each block. By the time she was freed from the concrete blocks, the woman was not responsive. She was bleeding. An ambulance took her to a local hospital.
A report from the Boston police said that the woman’s hand and legs suffered “substantial damage” and a witness who helped her noted the woman’s hand was crushed in the collapse. A friend of the victim’s said she was a pianist.
Officials Amazed There Weren’t More Injuries in the Allston Restaurant Collapse
Restaurant staff and customers were safely evacuated through the back of the building, and inspectors arrived to ensure the building would be safe overnight and okay for assessment.
Bob Oguin, who owns Common Ground, said the collapse sounded and felt like an earthquake, with the whole building shaking and no warning that the façade was going to fall. Meanwhile, Deputy Boston Fire Chief Stephen McNeil said it was amazing more people weren’t injured in the collapse, given that the area has a lot of foot traffic.
Rescuers used a thermal imager to ensure there was no one else trapped under the debris.
Common Ground Bar and Grill Temporarily Shut Down Following Structural Collapse
Common Ground was shut down while the building underwent repairs. Although the owner expected the restaurant would be shut down for months, it reopened for regular operating hours later in November. Kimchipapi Kitchen is in the same building and also shut down following the collapse. It reopened but for reduced hours.
Construction on the building is ongoing.
Building Investigators Focus on Weather and Restaurant’s Sign
William Christopher, Inspectional Services Commissioner, assessed the building the day after it collapsed and said it was likely that a freeze/thaw cycle combined with heavy winds and the restaurant’s blade sign might have triggered the collapse.
“The sign was perpendicular to the building, that was tied to the masonry, and so we had some extreme winds the past two weeks and there was vibration and movement of that that we think could have dislodged one of the blocks. Once one block is dislodged, and falls, then it’s a domino effect for all the rest of the pieces to come down.”
Structural engineers quickly noted that the collapse was partially caused by stormy weather combined with long-term deterioration that was likely linked to water infiltration in cracks that developed, but that there was no structural damage.
Although buildings that are 70 feet or taller must have their facades inspected every five years, smaller buildings have no such requirement. Instead, owners are responsible for checking their properties and making any necessary repairs.