Restaurants report mixed results for a mild winter

Shelter Island restaurateurs are hoping the relatively mild winter foretells an early return to in-season levels of business.

Several local restaurants reported an upswing in business during the three-day Presidents’ Day weekend and some said that even though this past weekend’s weather was cooler, they were still seeing a promise that seasonal business has begun building sooner this year.

But it’s not all due to visitors or an early return to the Island by summer residents.

“We had a mix of local, North Fork and South Fork diners over Presidents’ Day,” La Maison Blanche co-owner Alistair MacLean said. The hotel was also full and hotel guests ate at least one dinner on site. “The mild weather certainly contributed to this,” he said.

Mr. MacLean also saw “an unusually high” number of people visiting La Maison Blanche’s bakery. This past weekend, business wasn’t as good as it was over the holiday but it was “steady enough,” Mr. MacLean said.

“Presidents’ Day weekend was a great one” at Vine Street Cafe, owner Terry Harwood said. It was not as lively this past weekend but still “a good weekend.”

“I certainly hope the trend continues,” Mr. MacLean agreed.

“We had a surprisingly busy weekend” over Presidents’ Day, Adam Kopels at 18 Bay said. For him and his wife Elizabeth, it was a return of locals — “all familiar faces” that filled their restaurant. A lot of year-round Island residents who hibernated during the earlier part of the winter were lured out by the mild weather.

But over at the Dory, where owner Jack Kiffer is still serving drinks and bar food during the winter months, he pronounced the holiday weekend “better than most, but not spectacular.” Still, he said he hopes business will pick up earlier this year. “We’ll just keep our fingers crossed.”

Sweet Tomato’s owner Jimi Rando thought business was all right in February but nothing he hadn’t experienced in the past. A lot of his regular Island and North Fork customers were “away in Cancun,” he said. But to the extent that he was busy, he attributed to the mild weather. He’s closed now and vacationing until the end of March or early April.

“We are finding we get a lot of last-minute reservations based on what the weather is going to be for that particular weekend,” Mr. MacLean said about the inn.

A number of local restaurants and inns such as Chequit and Ram’s Head closed this winter and some others that remained open are taking a break now.

Pat and Steve’s Family Restaurant is sending its customers elsewhere in search of the perfect hamburger while owners Ashley Knight and Chris Chobor take a break to renovate and rename their restaurant. It is due to reopen March 10.