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Chequit gets ready for its close-up: Tavern opens, art show launched

Islanders have watched with fascination and curiosity as the Chequit hotel’s undergone a complete renovation in the last few years. It was impossible to miss, standing prominently at the top of the road from the ferry.

This spring, in its 150th year, the hotel came back to life, with a new tree spreading its leafy branches over the iconic patio out front to take the place of a red maple that had deteriorated.

Quite fittingly, the inn launched a new artist-in-residence program series this week, starting with works by artist Ana Martínez Orizondo, whose work is centered around trees. A visual artist and writer living on the Island, she says she is fascinated by trees, animism and mystical states. Her work explores themes of ecology, spirituality and transformation.

This show, running through Aug. 16, enjoys space in the newly created exhibition gallery, where subsequent exhibits will appear featuring East End artists, according to Stacey Soloviev, who has overseen the Chequit’s restoration as community relations manager for the Soloviev Group.

Ana Martinez Orizondo’s Tree Series is the first of upcoming exhibits by local artists to be featured at the Chequit. (Credit: Lorin Klaris)

“Ana Martínez Orizondo is an exceptionally talented artist,” she said, “and we’re thrilled to kick off the series with her. We look forward to our community on the Island enjoying a variety of artists at the hotel throughout the year.” 

Also this week, the hotel’s Tavern has opened, showing off its dark wood interior that’s been completely transformed, with an antique billiard table that’s part of Chequit history.

The restaurant’s farm-to-table menu will highlight Chef Noah Schwartz’s signature meat and pasta dishes and a raw bar, where guests will be able to enjoy a variety of local oysters, clams, shrimp cocktail and lobster. The Tavern will have seating inside and outside, on The Chequit’s patio and wrap-around porch. It joins the Weakfish sushi bar — Chequit is the Manhanset word for weakfish — which opened in late spring.

Some of the Chequit’s restaurant patronage comes from the chef’s following on the North Fork, according to hotel manager Ben Levine. “We’re so close to North Ferry so it’s easy to come over from Greenport and walk up to the hotel.” Ms. Soloviev and Mr. Levine said they had not encountered difficulty recruiting staff, partly because they began opening before the summer season and Mr. Schwartz had helped to bring in the restaurant staff early on.

Asked if she had discovered any ghosts in the old walls of the hotel during the extensive renovation, Ms. Soloviev laughed during a recent interview with the Reporter. “I had some friends tell me the lights were turning themselves on and off during their stay,” she said. She did have a shaman stay at the hotel for one week at the beginning to be sure the inn had good healthy spirits.

With substantial progress being made at the Chequit, she’s hopeful that The Dory will be up and running soon, she said. “We’re sourcing materials and equipment,” she said, joking that no one wants to look too closely to find what “skeletons” might be lurking beneath the floor of the old Bridge Street watering hole.

Ms. Soloviev said she wished she had been able to take part in a career fair the Shelter Island School had conducted this spring, but she and her staff were meeting with building inspectors that day. “That’s something I really want to do in the future,” she said, to encourage young people from the Island to learn about the hospitality industry that is so important to the Island’s economy and culture.