Saugerties bars and restaurants cope with new reality

All quiet on Main St. (Photo by David Gordon)

Sometimes, in our new quarantine reality, we just want some takeout and maybe a margarita. Some of us are simply bad cooks without blenders; others are at-risk and afraid to leave their homes for supplies. Still others have been laid off, or are operating on a stunted family income.

Fear not — in these trying times, also-struggling local bars and eateries are here to serve you. Thanks to County Executive Pat Ryan’s Project Resilience, help from local teachers, the Saugerties chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a slew of volunteers, relaxed liquor laws handed down from the State Liquor Authority allowing businesses to provide to-go drinks and the ingenuity of local restauranteurs, Saugertiesians have a slew of free and affordable takeout options available to them until the “new normal” transitions into the typical normal. Drinks are often dispensed either in Chinese food takeout containers or straw-top containers with Saran wrap.

“It gives us a chance to stay connected with our customers — it’s a regular customer’s birthday and we were able to send them home with a drink that they have quite often, a peach cosmo, when they come in. It was a nice opportunity to feel normal in this craziness,” said town supervisor and Sue’s Restaurant owner Fred Costello Jr. “This is hitting a lot of industries and food service is one of them. I can speak on the part of all restaurants and bars that we are grateful of SLA giving us the opportunity to do that is an off-premise service.”

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Last Friday, Sue’s kicked off Operation Resilience’s meal distribution program — Costello said 70 area restaurants are participating, and that 225 meals were prepared on the first evening. Meanwhile, according to Village Mayor Bill Murphy, approximately 335 meals were distributed to hungry families and individuals from the Boys and Girls Club location thanks to funding and food platters handed down by Horses in the Sun owner Tom Struzzieri. Mirabella’s and John Livermore of the Stone Pony is also donating to the village initiative, and providing meals regularly for the 60 residents at the village senior living facility.

“It’s important that we keep the cycle going — for every person we can keep working, that’s one less person on the unemployment line,” said Murphy. “The main thing is that, through all this, this is only our third day. Each day we’ve improved our process and today we’re like a well-oiled machine. Very little interaction, proper spacing between people … within a week we have it down to a science.”

According to Dallas Gilpin, owner of the Windmill Wine and Spirits, business has been doing quite well — she said that orders can be placed online or by phone, and that the shop’s whole inventory can be found on their website. However, business at her restaurant, The Dutch Ale House, has decreased by over half.

“It’s hard, I think, not knowing the end to this is the most difficult part,” said Gilpin. “I don’t know how long a lot of the businesses here can hang on, but we’re doing what we can at The Dutch to keep things moving.”

Gilpin said that her business is now selling family platters, meant for two to eight people, and is offering lower-priced specials on their website. As the head of the local merchant’s group Discover Saugerties, she said that members have a series of initiatives in the works, including a virtual first Friday — more information can be found on the Discovery Saugerties website or Facebook page.

Peggy Schwartz, head of the Saugerties Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Town and Country Liquors, said that curbside pickup will entirely replace in-store shopping at her establishment; Joe Maloney of Maloney’s said that, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, his store will also provide curbside pickup in addition to delivery.

“My store is a true example of a small-town business,” said Schwartz. “My employees are … they’ve just been wonderful, they’ve been showing up, they’ve been working hard. They’ve been taking care of our customers, they’ve been willing to get in the car to deliver to people who can’t and shouldn’t get out. The reason that town and country and surviving now is because of the employees.”

Rhianna Rodriguez said that, although she has had to let go a swathe of her employees, she is grateful that curbside pickup at Main Street Restaurant is catching on — now villagers can pick up staples like their Baja fish tacos and exceptional nachos. In terms of beverages, she said that the restaurants margaritas — which cost $5 and come in toasted coconut, lime, mango and strawberry and classic flavors — have been relatively popular. While she initially tried to work on a delivery system, she said that hiccups led her to stick with takeout.

“I’m very, very, very, very thankful to still be open. I don’t know what would happen if we would close,” said Rodriguez. “I’m living and running my business on a day-to-day because everything can change on the daily right now. We encourage curbside more than coming in, we’re trying to keep our staff healthy and still in business. A lot of people have their own families and they have bills to pay. If I can pay my bills and not make a profit, if I can do that, and I really don’t know yet based on one week, I think that’s all anyone has been aiming for.”

Miss Lucy’s on Partition Street will also provide curbside pickup on Wednesdays; Alex Lamb and Mike DePoala of Stella’s, which generally opens in April, may have to delay their opening this year in the wake of the virus.

“If they’re pushing it to August, we’ll have to look at the business and see what we can do to open up and have some type of income coming in. If it’s a short, if it only makes it to let’s say the beginning to May or end of May we might be able to withstand that, but any time past that we might have to go the takeout route or extend to family style dinners,” said Lamb.

Individuals who are interested in free meal programs can sign up for Project Resilience here, and are encouraged to support struggling local eateries.

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