Closing in winter benefits some area businesses

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Grana Wood Fired Pizza owner and chef David Plath was back at work last Thursday after closing since the end of December.

Last week’s blizzard was hefty enough to close down the Long Island Expressway throughout all of Suffolk, so it’s easy to imagine why some local restaurants find it prudent to shut their doors for a period of time during the colder season.

“Last week was an example of why so many businesses close during winter,” said Dianne Delaney, general manager at Comtesse Thérèse Bistro in Aquebogue. “We live in such an unpredictable climate. We closed for January. The first weekend we were open was a wild success. Then we didn’t even open this past weekend because of the snow.”

Snow or not, Comtesse Thérèse executive chef Arie Pavlou said there are other, non-fi nancial benefits to closing shop for a time.

“It gives you a chance to recharge your batteries,” Mr. Pavlou said. “It can get very monotonous out here without a break.”

Chef and co-owner Noah Schwartz of Noah’s in Greenport said it’s customary for him to close his business during the first two weeks of January.

“Typically we’ve found January to be the slowest time, especially in Greenport,” Mr. Schwartz said. “It helps labor costs because we don’t have staff to not earn any money, but we try to give our staff as many hours as possible. Closing can be hard on the staff who rely on us for year-round income, so we try not to stay closed for too long.”

Business owners often use the downtime to complete renovation projects or even travel to fi nd culinary inspiration.

“Last year we closed for two weeks and this year we took five weeks to put in some bench seating, paint the entire place and finish the bar,” said owner David Plath of Grana in Jamesport. “It was an ideal time to freshen up and to travel around Italy getting ideas for ingredients and dishes.”

Mr. Plath said he got the idea to serve truffled fondue during his most recent trip abroad in January, along with other appetizers that he’ll begin rolling out in the coming weeks.

“One is a lightly fried cod and the other is a chi-chi bean puree that is like an Italian version of hummus,” he said. “I got some great ideas and also got to check out a supplier I’m interested in while I was there.

He also said he’s now feeling refreshed as he gathers momentum to get Grana back up and running.

“Sometimes getting up and going again is like trying to move a thousand-pound elephant,” he said with a laugh.

Instead of just taking a few weeks off, it’s financially necessary for some restaurants to be strictly seasonal, said local restaurateur Adam Lovett of Greenport’s A Lure.

“We’ve tried to stay open during the winter but it just doesn’t make sense with the location and the size of the building and kitchen,” Mr. Lovett said. “It’s not in downtown Southold or Greenport so there’s no foot traffic. It’s out in the middle of a marina that’s closed and the fact of the matter is people don’t always think to have dinner at a waterfront seafood restaurant in February.”

Though he said closing for the season is important for A Lure’s financial survival, Mr. Lovett said the opposite is true for A Mano, his smaller, high-end Italian eatery in Mattituck.

Mr. Lovett said when other area businesses close for the winter, A Mano begins to pick up speed.

“A Mano has a comfortable, wintery feel and when other people close down, we remain pretty busy,” he said. “Ben Suglia at Mattituck Laundry tells me restaurants that stay open during the winter do better in the summer — and who am I to argue? He does a lot of restaurants’ linens in the area and the guy that does your linens knows exactly what business you’re doing.”

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