After historic sale of Claudio’s in Greenport, opening date unclear

04/01/2018 6:00 AM |

After a 148-year run as America’s longest continuously family-owned restaurant, Claudio’s in Greenport has been sold.

Co-owner Jan Claudio confirmed the transfer of the iconic waterfront property Monday. The building that houses the flagship restaurant, originally opened as Claudio’s Tavern in 1870, is recognized by the National Restaurant Association as the longest continuously family-owned eatery in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

“It is certainly not a clear feeling after so many years and having invested so much of our lives in the property,” Ms. Claudio said. “It’s a good thing. The buyers are good people and will do good things for the property and the village.”

Ms. Claudio declined to identify the buyer or the sale price. In a statement on social media, the Claudio family said the new owner would retain the names of the businesses. It’s unclear if they will open in time for the start of the 2018 season. Claudio’s typically reopens in early April.

At a Feb. 22 Village Board meeting, action being taken by a potential buyer for the Claudio’s restaurant complex was mentioned briefly. The village had published a legal notice for an LLC “to be formed by David Weitz,” saying it intended to pursue liquor licenses for all three restaurants.

The outside of Claudio’s Restaurant. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

The applicant is required to notify the municipality — in this case, the village — at least 30 days before submitting an application to the New York State Liquor Authority, according to SLA director of public affairs William Crowley. As of Tuesday, no pending liquor license applications had been filed for the properties by a “David Weitz LLC” or any other applicant, Mr. Crowley said. The new owner is barred from selling alcohol on the premise until SLA approves the license.

On Tuesday, Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said the buyer had not reached out to the village about plans for the property, adding that he hoped the new owner “would keep with the character of the village so it remains a nice, family-friendly place.”

The restaurant complex had been on the market since January 2015. A previously proposed sale for $12.25 million fell through early last year.

The Claudio’s property could sustain up to 50,000 square feet of additional construction without disturbing the existing restaurants, according to a listing portfolio released in late 2014 by New York City real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.

For nearly 30 years, Claudio’s has been owned by a corporation that includes Bill and Jan Claudio, Kathy Claudio and Beatrice and Jerry Tuthill. Mr. Tuthill died in 2016.

Bill Claudio, shown here at the Claudio’s bar, owned the Greenport restaurant for nearly 30 years as part of a corporation (Katharine Schroeder, file photo)

The group purchased Claudio’s in 1989 from the siblings’ father, William Claudio Sr., who had owned the popular bar and restaurant since 1930.

“We go confidently, knowing the vision and drive of new ownership will allow future generations to experience and enjoy what our family has built,” the online statement continued. “It is a rich tapestry of lives that have crossed our doors and created lasting memories; we would like to believe a piece of those many voices remain forever in some magical way.”

The restaurant helped shaped North Fork summers since sailor Manuel Claudio opened Claudio’s Tavern after arriving in the village aboard the Portuguese whaler “Neva” in the mid-1800s. The building is a testament to the history of the working waterfront, originally serving as place for whalers and fishermen to stop and refuel.

During Prohibition, between 1920 and 1934, Claudio’s was among the most notable speakeasies in the region. The family-friendly restaurant operated downstairs while locals who sought free flowing libation headed upstairs, according to an article published in The Suffolk Times in May 2013. Under cover of night, bootleggers ran smuggling operations and Claudio’s, which sat on stilts over the water, was a convenient and popular drop-off location. A trap door still exists behind the bar.

Crabby Jerry’s pictured in 2013. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder photo)

Throughout the years, Claudio’s has been recognized by numerous publications for its storied past. In 2015, USA Today Travel highlighted it in an article about America’s most historic restaurants and The History Channel included it in a story about rumrunners, moonshiners and bootleggers.

Today, the restaurants are best remembered as much for the ambiance as for the hearty lobster rolls, creamy New England clam chowder and specialty cocktails like Prohibition lemonade — the menu duly noting “temperance not required.”

“Having grown up in New Suffolk and Greenport, I have been lucky enough to have many memories of going to Claudio’s — from my teens all the way into my 60s,” said Robin Pugsley-Ennis of New Suffolk. “For me and many of my friends, it has been a constant in our lives — a place where we always feel at home and you could always find a buddy. There isn’t really just one memory, but a collection of them to last a lifetime.”

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