posted on September 22, 2015 04:27
By Marc Larocque
Taunton Gazette Staff Reporter
TAUNTON — The former Benjamin’s restaurant property in Taunton will soon be sold to the highest bidder.
The now-shuttered landmark Taunton restaurant is set to be sold off at a live auction on Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. on site at the 698 Bay St. property, in what the auctioneer called “an incredible opportunity” for a potential owner.
“It’s kind of an iconic place down that area,” said Daniel McLaughlin, who runs a Boston-based auctioneering company. “Everyone who has grown up in that area has been to some sort of function there at some time. … I really think that someone who’s in the function or restaurant business has an incredible opportunity here.”
McLaughlin is auctioning off the two-floor, 25,000-square-foot building on behalf of Mechanics Cooperative Bank, which took ownership of the foreclosed property last month.
The deed for Benjamin’s was signed over to the bank on July 16 to make up for $247,567 in debt on a second mortgage the business received last year and later defaulted on, according to documents filed at the Northern Bristol County Registry of Deeds.
According to the accounts of several veteran employees there, the business floundered in recent years under the ownership of Diane Benjamin, after she inherited Benjamin’s from her late husband, restaurant patriarch George Benjamin, who died in 2013.
George Benjamin and his brothers opened the doors at Benjamin’s restaurant in 1968, before developing the reputation as a go-to place for a semi-formal dinner, a family celebration, a business gathering or community functions.
The business was left in the hands of Diane Benjamin, his wife of 23 years. But George Benjamin’s children also filed a civil lawsuit in March of this year, accusing her of “undue influence” that resulted in a revised will giving her the inheritance of the Taunton restaurant. Steve Torres, who represents the Benjamin children, said he had no comment at this time when reached on Tuesday.
Diane Benjamin announced to employees and patrons in early May that the landmark restaurant was closed.
A large sign advertising the auction went up in front of the former Benjamin’s restaurant on Monday, McLaughlin said. The property is on 3.25 acres of land, with 215 parking spaces with frontage on three different streets, and enough room in the restaurant for 450 seats.
“It’s fully equipped,” McLaughlin said. “It certainly could use some updating.”
Potential owners could find a lot of value buying the foreclosed property at an auction price, McLaughlin said.
“The banquet business is a pretty profitable business,” he said. “You can be a wedding factory, if you get it right.”
Asked if it was possible that the new owners keep the Benjamin’s name, McLaughlin said he wasn’t sure, but whatever happens there should be interesting.
“It’s a really interesting opportunity you just don’t see everyday,” he said. “Anyone I’ve talked to says, I’ve been there 50 times for weddings and graduations. … It’s obviously a proven location.”