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Two Merrick restaurants shutter amid Covid-19 pandemic

Left Coast Kitchen and Bayou Jones close within days of one another

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Two standout Merrick restaurants are saying goodbye to local diners as the coronavirus pandemic continues to flip the hospitality industry on its head. The owners of Left Coast Kitchen & Cocktails and Bayou Jones reported earlier this month that they would close their establishments — the announcements were posted on Facebook just a day apart.

“This is a celebration of a one of a kind place, a celebration of bringing a dream to life, a celebration of showing Long Island what chef-driven, seasonal food and craft cocktails taste like, and giving the South Shore a ‘Cheers’-type atmosphere to enjoy in real life,” wrote Left Coast’s owners Chris and Heather Randell on Aug. 13.

The popular gastropub, at 1810 Merrick Road, entertained droves of diners for a decade. Its eclectic, thoughtful menu was full of fun, sumptuous dishes as well as some classic favorites, leaving patrons hungry for more, while skilled mixologists behind the bar whet customers’ appetites by shaking up speakeasy-style drinks.

The Randells expressed gratitude for the past 10 years, writing, “Kids who never worked in a restaurant left LCK as adults with serious food and beverage knowledge. Cooks with limited experience will continue careers as future chefs. Neighbors became regulars who became family. We laughed, we cried, we hustled and we made a lot of people happy. We are so thankful for everyone who believed in us and helped us succeed. We love you and appreciate you.”

On Aug. 14, owner Lisa Livermore wrote, “It's with a very heavy heart we announce that Bayou Jones is permanently closed. Although off to a great start, we were no match for Covid-19 and [Tropical Storm] Isaias.”

The Cajun/Creole restaurant, at 153 Merrick Ave., opened in June 2019 as an offshoot of R.S. Jones and The Bayou. Livermore and her business partner, Staci Tucci, opened Bayou Jones in the previous spot of R.S. Jones, retaining the same menu, staff and down-home atmosphere diners had come to love.

The Herald Life spoke with Livermore back in April during the height of the pandemic in New York. The restaurant laid off most of its wait staff, and worked with “a skeleton crew for safety measures,” she had said.

Closing the restaurant permanently was “a hard decision to make,” Livermore said. “We were not doing enough takeout to pay the basic bills, so it didn't make sense to stay in business,” she added, “and even though our staff took the greatest precautions, if one of us had become ill, we would’ve had to close anyway.”

When Isaias rolled through the area, Bayou Jones lost power immediately. By the time it was restored four days later, all the kitchen’s perishables were lost, too. “We would’ve been closed another week in order to replace everything and re-cook all of our food,” Livermore said. “The loss was too much.”

Livermore noted that while the pandemic has forever altered the restaurant industry, it might not necessarily be for the worst. “I think full-service restaurants may be scaled down, or [could] be a thing of the past if the virus isn’t contained,” she said, “but it’s an exciting time for new innovations, and leaves space for new people to come in and try out new things. I don’t see it as all doom and gloom.”

The restaurateur said she was eager to open Bayou Jones in Merrick since the community was receptive to a new restaurant notch in its local business belt. “Everyone was just so inviting and nice and we couldn’t wait to get open and serve them,” she said. “It was a good run, a lot of fun and a great experience.”

Both the Randells and Livermore said they were especially grateful for their loyal customers and dedicated staffs.

“We are sad yet inspired by the endless possibilities,” the Randells wrote. “As this chapter closes we have our eyes set on the future. We will be cooking up some new things, so stay tuned.”