One opened in 1870 and is considered the longest continuously-owned family restaurant in the United States.
The other found its humble beginnings in a concession stand in 1935 and has also been owned by the same local family for decades.
Now, it appears both Claudio’s and Soundview restaurants in Greenport will soon change hands, along with the connected waterfront businesses that surround them.
The Suffolk Times learned in August that the Soundview was in contract and just last week the Village of Greenport published a legal notice featuring the name of a potential buyer for Claudio’s — stating that a new liquor license application was filed with the New York State Liquor Authority this month.
Claudio’s co-owner Bill Claudio said this week that the property has not yet been sold, but a potential owner, Michael Barrett, has begun taking steps in case a deal is finalized.
“He’s proceeding on the idea that somewhere down the road, he will purchase it,” Mr. Claudio said. “Right now, he’s trying to get a jump on it for liquor licenses for operations.”
The legal notice indicated that Mr. Barrett applied for the liquor license on behalf of himself “or an entity still to be formed.” Mr. Claudio said he didn’t know much about Mr. Barrett’s background but described him as a “very nice guy.”
“He loves the East End and he is looking at Claudio’s with the idea he could move his family out here,” Mr. Claudio said.
Sources told The Suffolk Times this is the same Michael Barrett who has been a partner at several New York City and Hamptons eateries and night spots, including the former China Club in Midtown west, The Tippler in Chelsea Market and the Shagwong in Montauk. Attempts to reach that Mr. Barrett were unsuccessful this week.
Greenport Mayor George Hubbard confirmed that a liquor license had been applied for, but said he has not met with any potential buyer for the property.
Rumors have floated around Greenport all year as to who might purchase Claudio’s. Paul Monte, former CEO and now senior advisor of Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, and celebrity hotelier Andre Balazs, owner of Sunset Beach on Shelter Island, have been among those rumored to be interested in the property.
Mr. Balazs has also been rumored to be interested in the Soundview Inn and Restaurant, as has New England billionaire Steven Karp, who denied his interest when contacted by The Suffolk Times last month. Mr. Balazs could not be reached for comment this week.
The Soundview first hit the market in 2012 with an asking price of nearly $14 million, but the Levin family, which has owned a business on the site since Jack Levin first launch the Jack’s Shack concession stand there in 1935, said at the time it was not actively looking to relinquish ownership of the 5.5-acre property, which includes the restaurant and beachfront motel.
Mr. Levin, who was Greenport’s oldest resident when he died last year at 105, opened the Sound Shore Motel — now the Soundview Inn — in 1953 and purchased the adjacent Soundview Restaurant in 1968.
Contacted in August, when The Suffolk Times first learned the Soundview was in contract, commercial agent Hal Zwick of Town and Country, who has maintained the exclusive listing on the Soundview since 2012, said it was premature to discuss any pending sale. He has also declined comment several times since then.
Soundview Restaurant owner Rachel Murphy said she “doesn’t have too much to talk about.”
“There’s no news to report,” she said. “It’s all speculation at this point.”
The Soundview isn’t comparable to many North Fork properties that have sold in recent years. Perhaps the closest is the former Santorini Beachcomber Resort in Cutchogue. But while that property is 17.4 acres compared to the Soundview’s 5.5, the former includes only 534 feet of Soundfront shoreline. The local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers purchased the Beachcomber for $12.65 million in January 2008, months before the market collapsed. The IBEW now runs that property as a private training facility.
Claudio’s comprises a trio of restaurants with no related accommodations, but that could change in the future. In addition to its existing assets, the property allows for up to 50,000 square feet of additional construction without disturbing the current restaurants, as long as owners acquire village approval, according to the listing portfolio released by New York City real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield. The firm was accepting offers for the property this summer.
Guthrie Garvin, executive director at Cushman and Wakefield’s Forest Hills office, told The Suffolk Times in July that he couldn’t disclose the number of bids received, but that there was “pretty steady interest.” Mr. Garvin did not respond to an email Saturday seeking information about the potential sale.
Manuel Claudio opened Claudio’s Tavern in 1870. For the past 26 years, Claudio’s has been owned by a corporation that includes Bill Claudio and his wife, Jan; Bill’s sisters, Kathy and Beatrice; and Jerry Tuthill, Beatrice’s husband. They purchased Claudio’s in 1989 from Bill’s father, William Claudio Sr., who had owned the popular bar and restaurant since 1930.
The Claudio family announced in January that they were selling their two-acre waterfront property. The listing portfolio said the complex was expected to generate nearly $8 million in revenues in 2015.
Mr. Claudio said in January that he expects new owners to keep the restaurant close to the same.
“They are not going to want to change anything that we’ve been so successful at for 145 years,” he said. “They are going to want to see how we do it, learn how we do it.”
Whether or not a deal on Claudio’s or Soundview will close anytime soon remains to be seen.
Mr. Claudio estimated Friday that the current ownership group has spoken with more than 20 potential buyers for the property since it has owned the complex.
“If it happens this time, I can finally sit back,” he said.
Photo Credit: Chris Lisinski