A longtime fixture in downtown Port Jefferson closed last week, leaving a business next to Village Hall empty.
The McDonald’s fast food restaurant on West Broadway had been controversial when it first moved in more than a decade ago, but what has been perceived as its abrupt closure has left some scratching their heads. Visitors were met with a sign directing them to a different franchise location in Port Jefferson Station.
“I was totally shocked,” Barbara Sabatino said about when she found out the harborfront restaurant had closed.
The owners and operators of the business, franchisees Peter and Katie Hunt, said in an email statement through a McDonald’s spokesperson on Monday, “It’s been a pleasure to serve this neighborhood and we appreciate the support of the local business community, elected officials and community partners. We are very happy to report that all of our employees have accepted jobs at nearby McDonald’s locations. We remain committed to serving Port Jefferson, and we look forward to continuing our work in this community.”
Sabatino, who runs the Port Jeff Army Navy in upper Port and serves on the village planning board, was a member of the now-defunct civic association at the time McDonald’s was trying to locate in lower Port more than 15 years ago.
“They really had a difficult time,” she said. “[Some people] felt that a McDonald’s did not fit their view of Port Jefferson.”
There were also people on the other side of the argument, she added, who had an attitude of “what’s the big deal?”
While village officials said they were concerned about how the restaurant would look, Sabatino said, the owner was “cooperative” on the architecture and finishing touches, giving it that “seafaring town look, with the dormers on the top and the little trim.”
And the business owner noted that the restaurant has been a good neighbor, cleaning up trash and keeping the property looking nice.
The controversy over it coming in was enough to spur the village board of trustees to take precautions for the future.
According to the village code, officials amended Port Jefferson’s zoning laws in June 2000 to prohibit “formula fast food establishments” in both the C-1 and C-2 central commercial districts, which are located along the main drag in the downtown and uptown areas, respectively.