A downtown Riverhead restaurant closed last month after it received a stop work order from the New York State Workers Compensation Board for failing to comply with state labor laws, an agency spokeswoman confirmed this week.
Cody’s BBQ & Grill was issued the stop work order May 12 after an investigator found the restaurant was still operating nearly nine months after its workers’ compensation insurance policy was canceled, said WCB spokeswoman Rachel McEneny. The restaurant, which first opened in August 2011, faces more than $30,000 in penalties for failing to have workers’ compensation insurance and is being charged fines that increase by $750 every 10 days until payment is made, she said. Additional penalties are pending for continuing to operate after canceling its disability insurance May 7, she said.
State records show the eatery’s workers’ compensation policy was cancelled Aug. 25, 2013, and that WCB first sent a notice of pending penalties in December. Cody’s representatives did not respond to the initial inquiry or a subsequent penalty notice and billing statement that was mailed to an East Hampton address for the corporation on file with the Department of Labor, Ms. McEneny said.
Cody’s co-owner Richard Gherardi did not return phone messages left at his home and at a construction business he owns in East Hampton seeking comment for this story. The number for Cody’s has been disconnected. General manager and co-owner Vic Prusinowski also did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In a story published May 17, Mr. Gherardi told riverheadlocal.com that the closure was a business decision based largely on the impact of Hurricane Sandy. He said the restaurant suffered $100,000 worth of damage but only received $40,000 from its insurance company.
“I loved Cody’s, but unfortunately this is a business decision I had to make,” he told RiverheadLocal. “If it was at least covering expenses, it would be different.”
Two Cody’s waitresses interviewed for this story said the business abruptly closed May 14 after employees found the stop work order on a basement fax machine during business hours.
At the time the stop work order was issued, the waitresses said they were told the restaurant was being sold and that it could reopen soon.
A company owned by Mr. Gherardi called Riverhead Holdings, LLC also owns the East Main Street building where Cody’s was located. The building was purchased for more than $1 million in 2006, according to county property records.
Mr. Gherardi first opened the restaurant Michael’s on the Boardwalk at the location in 2006. After that business venture closed in 2009, he leased the space to the owners of Casa Rica Restaurant and Sports Bar, which closed in 2010 after having its liquor license revoked by the New York State Liquor Authority following a stabbing incident inside the bar.