The Shelter Island Country Club’s financial picture is about as bleak as it was last year. And once again, another honeymoon with a restaurateur has ended in a split. Endless Summer Grille operator Peter Ambrose won’t be back at Goat Hill next year.
“It wasn’t as successful as we have had in the past,” Country Club President Ron Lucas said about Mr. Ambrose — who declined comment — passing on a second summer as the club’s restaurant operator.
Over the past several years, there have been a series of restaurant operators. Fresh closed just before Labor Day in 2013, succeeded by Fairway in 2014, VUE in 2015 and Endless Grille this past summer.
“Now we’re in the same boat,” Mr. Lucas said about finding another restaurateur for the 2017 season.
While most restaurant operators who left didn’t comment on why their arrangements with the club failed, Dan Murray of Fairway said he found it difficult for two separate operations to function in the same space, with all bar receipts going to the club and only food sales going to the restaurant operator.
The club ended the year with $11,802 in cash and in its checking and money market accounts, according to Mr. Lucas. It expects another $8,938 to come from Mr. Ambrose, he said.
Balance that against $16,983 in bills due by year’s end and there’s $3,757 left. Last year, the club had $16,015 left at year’s end.
How much the club owed at the end of the 2015 season isn’t clear, but minutes of the club’s year end meeting said money was still owed for grass seed, payment to the club’s accountant, natural gas and gasoline and a new gas tank alarm system that had been installed.
What is known is that at the start of this year, the town floated the club a $10,000 loan by purchasing a piece of equipment needed by the club, which was permitted to lease it for $1 a year.
“We had hoped to pay back the bridge loan we received from the town which is secured by our equipment, but are not yet able to do so,” according to minutes issued to members by Belle Lareau of an October 16, 2016 meeting.
Revenues for the 2016 year were down $64,000 or 33 percent from the previous year. At the same time, expenses were reduced in 2016 by $56,400 or 45 percent of what they were in 2015.
With respect to the outstanding bills, payroll and taxes are top priority, including federal, state, unemployment and sales taxes, the minutes reported. Also outstanding are bills for insurance, liquor and payments to club vendors, according to the document.
Many of the vendors are club members and have been willing to negotiate late payment fees, Mr. Lucas said.
As the board did last year, it has been encouraging members to pay their dues for the 2017 season early in order to help meet bills and get rolling for the next year.
From November 2015 through January 2016 the club brought in $21,000 to help pay the 2015 bills and launch the 2016 season.
The same plan is being pursued for the 2017 season, although member Mark Scola was quoted in Ms. Lareau’s minutes as saying the club was “close to bankruptcy” and questioning what happens if members pay early and the club doesn’t open. Sandra Lucas said the early payments will enable the club to meet its bills for 2016 and then raise fees for next year.
The possibility of a 10 percent across the board increase in fees, along with several other issues, will be subjects for future board meetings, Mr. Lucas said.
Another step to get money flowing to the club is to sell gift certificates this holiday season.
Mr. Lucas sees some light on the horizon with the election of three new members to the Board of Directors, Cathy Kenny, Gordon Gooding and Greg Toner.