After waiting nearly two years and facing several obstacles, the restaurant Prime 39, in Lynbrook, hosted a “soft” grand opening on Monday, and planned a full grand opening for Christmas Eve, after the Herald went to press.
“I’ve weathered a lot of storms,” owner Bryant Postell explained, “and I felt that I’m not a quitter, and we’re going to persevere and get through it.”
In November 2018, Postell, 47, signed a lease for the property at 39 Atlantic Ave., which was previously a retail store called Popcorn Buddha. Postell had to acquire the necessary permits and approvals to build out, operate, and convert the kitchen from electric to gas.
Around that time, however, National Grid instituted a gas moratorium after it reached an impasse with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York and New Jersey elected officials over a $1 billion, 24-mile gas supply pipeline. At the time, some 2,400 applications for new gas hookups were denied on Long Island, including Postell’s.
Postell also had to install a new fire alarm system, according to county code.
By the time both issues were resolved, the coronavirus pandemic was spreading rapidly across the U.S. this spring, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that restaurants could only offer takeout service, before he eventually permitted outdoor dining and then indoor dining with limited capacity.
Since Postell had not yet opened, he did not qualify for government funding, and he didn’t yet have a customer base, so he was unsure of what to do next. “It was really a crossroads,” he recalled. “Covid hit us strong, and I was at a crossroads, trying to figure out, what am I going to do? I’ve been in this project for close to 14, 15 months, and they shut down restaurants, and there was no opening in sight. Do I fold up and pack my bags, or do we keep at it?”
Postell decided to press on. Before deciding to open the restaurant, he worked at Verizon for 22 years and owned an event planning company, NL Entertainment, where he curated events for restaurants, event spaces, corporations and nightclubs in New York City and Long Island. He is a Brooklyn native and a Freeport resident. Postell said, his partner who is a Lynbrook resident, brought them there to scout the town for space, and felt Lynbrook was “a perfect fit and great opportunity” to bring a new dining experience. He added that he felt some ties to Lynbrook as he researched the village and found out that it derived its name from early settlers who migrated there from Brooklyn.
At his opening, Postell reflected on the adversity he faced over the many months of struggle, saying he was determined to get through it and eventually welcome customers. “I had strong support from family and friends,” he said. “I’m a very driven person when it comes to being successful. We dealt with a lot in the pandemic, but I think the first two months of the pandemic allowed us to stay home and allowed me just to clear my mind and focus and really figure out how we move forward, and it’s just determination and perseverance, really.”
Chamber of Commerce President Steve Wangel said that many small businesses faced “insurmountable challenges” amid the pandemic, and praised Postell for his resilience, adding that it was “heartwarming to finally have a win.”
“Between the National Grid gas service moratorium and the Covid shutdown, a lesser man would have thrown in the towel,” Wangel said. “I’m pleased that he had the fortitude to stick it out. All of Lynbrook anticipates his grand opening this week. We wish him nothing but success.”
Postell described his business as a “rest-o-lounge,” a hybrid of a restaurant and a lounge, which is “a full restaurant with a Manhattan-style, sleek, eclectic lounge feel,” he said, noting that Prime 39 is a new-age steakhouse that offers four different cuts of 28-day-aged prime steaks as well as a selection of seafood and vegan options. The restaurant can seat 76 people at full capacity, and can now house 38 patrons at a time to adhere to health guidelines amid the pandemic. There are 23 staff members, with about 16 working on any given night.
Postell said he was grateful to welcome customers, even amid the pandemic. “Being able to open the doors right now is taking a huge burden off my shoulders,” he said. “It’s a long road ahead still, but it’s a positive. You have something to look forward to and just to be able to see all the hard work finally come to fruition after two years feels amazing. But now we have other hurdles to get over.”