In Sandy’s Wake

 
Workers from IL Brigante Restaurant in lower Manhattan clean out the equipment and furniture from flood-water damage.
Workers from IL Brigante Restaurant in lower Manhattan clean out the equipment and furniture from flood-water damage. istockphoto.com
Flooded restaurants attempt to return to business as usual.

Hurricane Sandy ripped across the East Coast in late October leaving more than 8 million people without power and parts of Staten Island, Long Island, and the Jersey Shore were completely devastated.

Restaurants in the storm’s path weren’t spared either. Many were damaged to the point of no return, while others were left without power for weeks, losing thousands of dollars in supplies, wasted food, and revenue.

Mario Saccente, executive vice president of the Long Island chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, estimates as many as 1,000 of the roughly 2,500 full-service restaurants on Long Island were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

Of those affected, at least 300 restaurants experienced physical damage—primarily from flooding—and 10 percent of those may have suffered irreparable damage and be forced to permanently shut their doors.

At The Water Club, a New York City establishment that sits along the East River in Manhattan, executive chef Aaron Bashy says extensive damage closed the restaurant for at least eight weeks after the storm, causing The Water Club to miss out on precious revenue over the holiday season.

However, it could have been much worse. Bashy says the restaurant, which sits on a barge atop the river, was lucky the damage was limited to lost equipment, business, and food supplies.

Its sister concept, The River Café—which has its home on the Brooklyn side of the East River—was hit even harder. Its floors were flooded and ruined, every kitchen appliance aside from the range was destroyed, and dining room banquettes were scattered across the restaurant. Michael “Buzzy” O’Keefe, who owns both concepts, estimates the restaurant suffered millions of dollars in damage.

However, many restaurants that remained closed last month were seasonal operations, which would have closed for the winter months anyway, Saccente says, adding that some of these restaurants will reopen this spring.

The last of eight Joe’s Crab Shacks that were closed due to Sandy reopened in Oceanside, New York, last month—after construction crews repaired the 8,000-square-foot restaurant’s flooring, walls, and interior décor. During the time it was inoperable, more than 25 team members volunteered to prepare 3,500 meals to donate to area homeowners and volunteers.

Looking ahead to the next storm season, Saccente says it’s all about insurance. “Everyone is more educated on water damage from a massive storm and the need for flood insurance,” he says. “And our association provides access to many different insurance programs.”