SMITHTOWN, NY — Old Street Restaurant and Bar, an American restaurant in Smithtown, is feeling the financial burden of a New York State mandate that forced the temporary closure of all restaurants to sit-down service. The mandate came in mid-March as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The outbreak has led to challenging times throughout food industry, as late June is likely the earliest Long Island restaurants will be able to start reopening under the third phase of the state's guidelines.
Old Street Restaurant and Bar, at 92 E. Main St., has been a Smithtown fixture since 1969. For the past 25 years, it's been in the family of sister-brother duo Laura Lombardi and Frank Pizzimenti. While Lombardi is more optimistic the restaurant will survive than she was a month ago, she says the coronavirus ordeal has been "very stressful."
"[Pizzimenti] and I don’t even sleep at night," Lombardi said. "We have such bad anxiety. We’re getting deeper and deeper in debt. We’re really, really anxious and depressed. We come in here every morning, and the place is empty. It was such a lively, busy, loud place. Now it’s just empty, every day. It’s been too long now. It’s really taking a toll on us."
The restaurant is still paying full rent, utility fees, chefs, distributors and other expenses. While the eatery applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, Lombardi said it can't be used until workers are hired back. And that can't be done while there are no customers due to the virus, she said.
"It’s been a terrible couple of months here," she said. "We’re just trying to stay afloat and keep our doors open. We don’t really know why. We’re losing money, I think, every day we’re open."
Lombardi and her brother haven't taken a dollar from store income since the beginning of March, she said. And both have families, mortgages and car payments.
"I’m afraid of losing my home," she said. "I’m afraid of my car being repossessed. I haven't paid anything at home, never mind here. So we’re just trying to keep this place going and deal with our houses and mortgages at another time. It’s very stressful."
The Town of Smithtown is issuing temporary outdoor dining permits, officials announced Wednesday. With Old Street being in a shopping center, however, Lombardi said she doesn't know if the restaurant will be allowed outdoor seating. She suggested an alternative solution in that Old Street and the two other restaurants in the lot be allowed to set up some tents, picnic tables and live music. Customers could then order takeout from whichever eatery they want and eat outside.
Old Street Restaurant and Bar currently has its full menu available for curbside pickup or delivery through UberEats. The restaurant can be reached at 631-979-9073 for orders. It offers options such as steaks, seafood, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, wraps and salads. Its coronavirus-revised hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
The family has worked hard to build the restaurant up, Lombardi said. She's eager to see regular customers return once they're allowed to dine-in again.
"When people are allowed back in restaurants, I think our loyal customers will all patronize us as much as they can," she said. "[They're] wonderful people who we miss dearly."