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North Shore eateries expect tough times

Takeout and delivery are only options

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Their voices are full of worry and sadness, but North Shore restaurateurs say they hope to stay in business, although their profit margins will likely be markedly lower and they will be unable to keep most of their staff. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive on Monday that all bars and restaurants be closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, they said, will make things difficult. Only takeout service will be allowed.     

Jeanine DiMenna, co-owner of the View Grill in Glen Cove, said that on average, it costs $30,000 a month to keep her business open. “Rent, lights — people don’t realize the overhead day to day that restaurants have,” she said. “And I can no longer have parties, which keeps us going. We will try. That’s all we can do.”

DiMenna planned to print takeout menus that would change each day, and also sell beer and wine. The View Grill will also offer free delivery.

“I’d like to do some family meals as well, and we’re open to suggestions,” DiMenna said. Then she paused. “This is new to all of us.”

Connie Cincotta, a co-owner of Autentico in Oyster Bay, said she was committed to keeping everyone safe. Her restaurant has been offering takeout and will continue to do so, but she was concerned. “I’m no expert, but I worry about small businesses,” she said. “Some of us can survive on an extended closure, but some can’t.”

Autentico closes for three weeks each summer for repairs, including painting. “It all depends on how much time we’re talking about,” she said. “If it’s months, that’s a problem.”

Still Partners, a popular gastropub in Sea Cliff, is known for its live music. Co-owner Dan Roth said he knew Cuomo’s order was coming, and he was worried about how it would hurt his business. Roth said he hoped to get a loan from the Small Business Association, but when he tried to access its website on Monday, it was down, likely because of high traffic.

He has called his staff, he said, including waitresses, bartenders and doormen, to tell them that the restaurant would now offer takeout only. Many of them would probably lose their jobs, he said, adding that it would be hard to tell them, because many live paycheck to paycheck.

“My life has been turned upside down for the foreseeable future,” Roth said. “I hope that we all power through it and that we get to the other side of this. I’d like to go back to being a fun-maker.”

People celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, which usually includes eating Irish food. Corned beef and cabbage were on the menu at many restaurants, including Buckram Stables Cafe in Locust Valley. This year it was being offered curbside or as a takeout offering. 

Eileen Pascucci, a waitress at the café, said that although customers ordered the St. Patrick’s Day fare on the holiday, the restaurant made roughly 75 percent less in sales than in the past.

“We were shocked,” Pascucci said of the new state regulations. “We were absolutely blindsided. We didn’t see it coming.” 

Bill Long, of the Metropolitan, in Sea Cliff, said he anticipated that restaurants would have to close, but the reality of the situation didn’t hit him until he woke up on Tuesday morning. Having owned the restaurant for nearly 50 years, Long said, the worst part of it is not knowing when the closures will end. He was uncertain how long his restaurant would be able to survive.

Long is encouraging curbside pickup, which the Metropolitan has offered for some time. Now it will serve as the restaurant’s chief source of income. He will do all he can to pay his staff, he said, but the situation is dire. “I don’t know how long I can last,” he said. “This is absolute zero.”

Henry’s Confectionery, a fixture in Glen Cove, recently celebrated its 90th anniversary. With customers reluctant to leave their homes, owner Joe Valensisi said, he decided to close early on Monday. He said he hoped to keep the business going with takeout and curbside pickup, along with DoorDash delivery. “I don’t know,” Valensisi said. “It’s going to be a rough ride.” 

Joe Zozo owns Glen Cove’s Downtown Café. There was a drop in business even before Cuomo closed the restaurants, he said. Over the weekend, most customers requested delivery.

“This is a see-how-it-goes,” Zozo said. “I have to cut wait staff, busboys and some of the kitchen staff, too. I have to make sure I have enough money to make payroll to keep people in the kitchen content and happy, and I have to pay my bills.”

He makes more money when people dine in, he said, because customers order soda and alcohol. “It can’t get like Italy here,” Zozo said. “I never thought this would happen.”

Mill Creek, in Bayville, was closed on Monday. But owner Rich Cutler’s other restaurant, Mins, in Roslyn, was packed, he said.

“We took everything off the tables, including the salt and pepper shakers, and passed out paper menus,” he said. “The crazy thing is, everything felt normal, even though it definitely was not. It was a last hurrah.”

Mill Creek will offer curbside service until Cutler runs out of food. “If I’m not making money or losing money, we will stay open,” he said. “My core people, the two cooks, will stay on. Everyone else will be let go. I would stay open for them if I could, but I can’t operate in the negative.”

Letting his staff go will be difficult, Cutler said. “I’ve been praying with my staff, asking God to protect us and help us through this situation. I trust in God and pray. That’s really all I can do.”

 

Mike Conn and Jennifer Corr contributed to this story.