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Pro Port Jefferson Association

Port Jefferson turned breakfast into a special occasion over the weekend.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Pro-Port Jefferson Association, an organization that works on behalf of the food service industry in the village, the first-ever Walkabout Spring Breakfast Crawl was a success on a number of levels.

Breakfast crawl participants

Barito Tacos & Cocktails

C’est Cheese

East Main & Main

The Fifth Season

Kilwins

Local’s Cafe

Nantuckets

Pasta Pasta

Roger’s Frigate

Schafer’s

Slurp Ramen

Toast Coffehouse

The Steam Room

Wave Seafood Kitchen at Danfords Hotel & Marina

Brewology295

Fifteen establishments participated in the crawl March 24, offering special breakfast items and standing-room access during the three-hour event. Initially 200 tickets were made available for the event, but they sold out so quickly it was opened up to 100 more guests, according to chamber director of operations Barbara Ransome. She called the event super and very well attended and added if the restaurants are interested, they would bring it back again next year and would likely offer more tickets.

“There was this camaraderie and fellowship among the different groups waving to each other and using their maps,” Ransome said. “I don’t think there was anybody disappointed.”

Tickets were sold for three different tiers, a $20 ticket that allowed access to six of the participating stops, $30 for nine stops or $40 for access to all 15. The funds raised will go to Pro-Port Jefferson Association likely to be used for marketing, according to Ransome, except for a $500 donation being given to Port Jeff-based Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen.

“The event went very well,” doughnut shop East Main & Main owners Lisa Harris and Robert Strehle said in an email. “We would definitely be interested in participating again.”

Some of the offerings included chorizo hash at Barito Tacos & Cocktails, French toast skillets and Bloody Marys at Brewology 295, triple crème-filled croissants and mimosas at C’est Cheese and many more.

Ransome said she heard feedback from some attendees who enjoyed being able to participate on what is essentially “off-hours” for the various restaurants, thus not having to compete with typical restaurant business crowds or battle for parking. Initially planned as a standing-room event, Ransome said many of the restaurants had space to allow sit-down meals, and that aspect might be revisited in future years. She also said she’s working on an analysis of which attendees patronized which restaurants based on their ticket choice to help improve future incarnations.

 

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Restaurants in Port Jeff Village are banding together to form a subcommittee of the chamber of commerce in an effort advance common goals. File photo

Restaurants in Port Jefferson Village will now be functioning under a new, joint mantra: strength in numbers.

An organization called PRO Port Jefferson Association has been formally assembled with the stated mission to “promote and protect the economic interests of the Port Jefferson food and beverage service industry.” The organization will function as a subcommittee of The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, which to this point had few restaurants on board as dues-paying members and lacked a partnership with many lower Port businesses that fall under the food service category. The arrangement could mean more joint community events, better prices as a result of consolidation of buying power and an overall better dining experience for patrons.

John Urbinati, the owner of The Fifth Season restaurant on East Broadway and a director of the newly formed restaurant association, said restaurant owners in the village have long discussed creating an entity to serve their interests and present a united front in the community. He likened the new arrangement to a union, where people with common goals can create an open line of communication to improve sales for restaurant owners, who Urbinati said have a unique set of challenges to deal with in building a successful business.

“Every group of businesses has their own issues,” he said during a phone interview. “In the infancy stages of this group that’s been forming, it really came out of frustration. One of the great things for the progression and evolution of this group — it started out with a lot of frustrated business owners and it’s molding into more of a productive group.”

As part of the arrangement, members of PRO Port Jefferson Association will be required to join the chamber of commerce and will have to pay the $250 in annual dues, according to chamber director of operations Barbara Ransome, but will not be charged an additional fee as  a member of the association. The group intends to hold restaurant crawls or other similar events in an effort to raise funds, which they will then use to advertise for members, make charitable contributions and reinvest in the community, according to Urbinati.

“The chamber is here to support them independently,” Ransome said in a phone interview. “I’m OK with this arrangement, in fact, I’m grateful for it. I’m happy that they are showing initiative and energizing amongst themselves.”

Ransome added she was glad the restaurant owners were not divorcing themselves completely from the chamber. With the formation of the association, long-standing businesses like Roger’s Frigate and The Steam Room are joining the chamber for the first time in their history. Ransome said the association has funneled a few restaurants toward the chamber, which weren’t members previously, though she expects more when it comes time for businesses to renew their membership in November for 2018. She said the chamber would make restaurant owners aware of their new option at that time. The agreement also requires any promotion done by the restaurant association to include the chamber of commerce logo, Ransome said. The association is also working on having its own, freestanding website.

Steve Sands, the owner of Pasta Pasta and another one of the new association’s directors, said he previously believed the chamber wasn’t doing enough to benefit Port Jeff restaurants, but through the process of forming PRO Port Jeff, he has had a change of heart. He said the idea came from a similar setup in Patchogue Village, which Sands said he wants Port Jeff to emulate.

“Over the last couple of years business in Port Jeff has definitely been down, at least I know mine has been,” Sands said.

He said he thinks parking is a major deterrent for business and, with the restaurants banding together and interacting, it will be easier to tackle those types of issues as a group going forward.

Urbinati said his goal and the goal of all restaurant owners in the village is to create a welcoming environment to attract more paying customers.

“It really gives us an opportunity to be a larger voice for the restaurant and service community,” he said.

Finding a parking spot in Port Jefferson is often difficult, but a valet parking service could change things. File photo

By Alex Petroski

Despite concerns raised by members of the community, a valet parking system backed by restaurant and other business owners as well as elected officials in Port Jefferson Village is slated to begin this coming weekend.

The plan has progressed thanks to the efforts of the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District and Pro Port Jefferson Association, a group assembled to act in the interest of restaurant owners in the village. During a contentious public village board meeting in early June, members of the community spoke out against and in favor of the plan after Tommy Schafer, owner of Schafer’s and Tommy’s Place, and John Urbinati, owner of The Fifth Season restaurant, and others revealed the plan to the public.

At the time the village board had not been involved in the planning or implementation of the service, but because the designated staging area for car drop off is on village property, they had to approve the plan, which they had since the June meeting. The plan will proceed as a pilot with the possibility of cancellation at any time at the discretion of the village, according to Mayor Margot Garant.

The route valets will take to park cars at once the system is implemented. Image by TBR News Media

The service will function pursuant to a contract between the BID and the Port Jefferson School District. The municipal parking lot on Maple Avenue across the street from the fire department will be used as a staging area. Cars will be dropped off at that spot, parked at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, then picked up from the same spot. The service will cost drivers $7. The pilot program will take place during the summer months until Labor Day on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 11 p.m.

Valets will take cars from the lot behind Ruvo restaurant and bar, take a left on Maple Place, a right on Main Street, a right to cross over Barnum Avenue and a left into the high school lot. To return cars to the staging area for pick up, valets will exit at the opposite end of the lot onto Old Post Road then take a left on Main Street and a left onto Wynn Lane to re-enter the municipal lot. Valet drivers will not use Barnum Avenue, Tuthill Street or Spring Street, three residential roads which were discussed as possible routes during the June meeting, according to Garant.

Marge McCuen, a longtime village resident, spoke out against the proposed plan during the meeting because she didn’t want excess traffic on Tuthill Street, where she and her husband John live, during the night hours. She called the service an “invasion” of a residential area for the purpose of making money, a disturbance of quiet streets, and also objected to a lack of public hearings or advanced notice for residents.

“The whole thing is, they don’t seem to care about the people,” she said in a phone interview.

Schafer and Urbinati each expressed excitement for the possibilities at their respective restaurants now that customers will presumably have an easier time parking.

“I think it’s a great joint venture that the businesses and the village itself have been able to come together and make this project work,” Urbinati said in a phone interview.

Garant said resident concerns from the June meeting were taken into account in mapping out a pick up and drop off route, and the board aimed to have as little additional traffic on residential streets as possible.

The program is cost neutral for the village, and should revenue exceed the initial investment by Advanced Parking Services, the valet company in agreement with the BID, 25 percent of profits would go to the company and the remaining 75 percent would be split between the school district and village.