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Local Restaurants Experience Hurricane-Related Losses

Food spoilage was just one issue.

Along with residential power outages, a number of restaurants across town lost power, too – causing widespread food spoilage, loss of business, and in some cases physical damage to their properties that affected their bottom lines.

"Where to begin?" said Bill Sukow, owner of Brook House in Stony Brook. "We had a pretty decent year and then all of a sudden we had Sandy come and push our heads back under."

Sukow said he lost around $3,000 to $4,000 worth of inventory while the restaurant was closed between Monday afternoon and Saturday afternoon – and he isn't sure the restaurant will be able to entirely make up the losses. He is hopeful, though, for a strong Black Friday next week at the village center that will bring customers in the door.

"If someone can figure out how to add an extra week to the year, then we'll be fine," he said. "You just have to make sure you put enough away in your rainy day fund. ... The only comfort is that everyone is going through it together."

The Stony Brook Village Center, where Brook House is located, was nearly inaccessible by car. When the storm was over, Sukow made the drive from his south shore home to inspect the restaurant. He found he had to park at the Long Island Museum and walk to the village.

"There were more poles down than up. It was a very spooky sight here," said Sukow, whose store also lost an awning in the storm.

At Cabo Fresh, owner Jim DiVilio was without power for three days, and said he originally thought because of its proximity to a busy road that the outage would be shorter. He said he lost around $15,000 in business during the three days his store was without power.

"Had we been open, I could have doubled that because the restaurants that were fortunate enough not to lose their power probably doubled their sales," he said.

At Setauket Village Diner, co-owner Constantinos Drepaniotis said he tried to plan ahead by canceling some deliveries of food ahead of the storm. Yet he still threw out an entire dumpster of food, he said.

"It was a huge loss," he said. "We're feeling the effects of that as of this week."

It was a major contrast to last year's tropical storm Irene, during which the diner never lost power. During this year's storm, most of that shopping center was dark between Monday afternoon and Saturday morning.

"This time I think I jinxed myself," Drepaniotis said. "Due to the vastness of the storm they were predicting, we decided it was just better to shut down."

DiVilio also said he threw out an entire dumpster's worth of product. And that was only part of the problem: the gas crunch only worsened the situation.

"Thursday was extremely busy," he said. "Then there was a gas shortage, and then business seemed to have deteriorated a lot between Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

Sukow and DiVilio both said the hurricane has had them considering getting generators for their restaurants.

"The first storm we have and I don't lose my power for three days, it will pay for itself," DiVilio said.

Not all local eateries experienced losses, however. At Jake Starr Café, owner Scott Koppelman had a generator powerful enough to run the entire restaurant, and so he was only closed Monday and Tuesday for the brunt of the storm. He acquired a generator after being closed for nearly six full days after Irene in 2011.

"I had a generator so I didn't lose anything. Minor stuff, but nothing compared to everybody else," he said. "I had refrigeration the whole time. I could have opened up on Monday and Tuesday, but it was a disaster. You couldn't even drive."

At Country Corner, owner Ben Saraydarian also had some generator power and plenty of ice to help keep the beer cold. He also got some help from Brian McIsaac, owner of nearby Setauket Quality Meats, who had a powerful generator to keep his store going. McIsaac opened his refrigerator to Saraydarian so he could store his products, and on Thursday told Patch that he was "happy to help."

Saraydarian said the bar was packed on Tuesday following the storm, and for a few days after the storm.

"The keg coolers were cool, the jukebox was running, and the kitchen was semi operational," he said.

However, local business owners all said the losses could have been worse, pointing to the heartbreaking losses experienced in Long Island's south shore communities and other parts of the New York and New Jersey area.

"It definitely had an effect on us," said Johanna Hernandes, owner of Wildberry Yogurt in East Setauket. "But I feel lucky. We can't even complain about it."

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