2012-09-13 / News

Splendid weather soars summer sales

Restaurateurs say Newport events also helped business
BY KEN SHANE

Special events like the America’s Cup World Series and the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival are nice, but when it comes to Jamestown’s restaurants, the success of the season all comes down to one word – weather.

Fortunately the summer of 2012 saw splendid weather in the area, and as a result local restaurateurs are reporting a banner year. That is not to say that the special events that marked the start of summer didn’t have a positive effect on restaurant coffers.

“I think the summer was great,” said John Recca, who owns the Narragansett Café and Jamestown Fish, and also manages The Shack at Dutch Harbor. “We had the America’s Cup World Series, tall ships, and the [Rocket ’hogs] brought the Fourth of July fireworks back downtown. The weather was as good as anyone could ask for.”

This summer marks Jamestown Fish’s first. “We feel like we had a great summer season,” said Recca. “We saw good lunch traffic, and most Friday and Saturday nights we had a full patio as well as a full dining room. We were fortunate to receive lots of great press and nice positive reviews so Fish seems to be hitting on all cylinders.”

Recca said that sales were a little better than last summer at the Narragansett Café. He attributed some of that increase to the high temperatures this summer, and the quality of the air conditioning at the ’Ganny. It all added up to better lunch business as customers came in to escape the midday heat. The café’s weekend music and Sunday blues bands continued to draw great crowds with the restaurant at near capacity for live music.

While business was booming at his two downtown restaurants, things started off slowly at The Shack. “I am not sure we were quite ready for that opening,” Recca said. “We had our hands full opening the patio and pizza bar at Fish, but we got our act together and by mid-summer we had the kinks worked out.” He added that Dutch Harbor Boat Yard had a busy summer, which helped business.

Another destination restaurant, Trattoria Simpatico, also had a good summer. According to owner Phyllis Bedard, the restaurant saw strong nighttime traffic, but lunches were somewhat lighter than 2011.

“Overall we had a very successful season. I was shocked because even on Labor Day I figured we would be quiet, but the place was mobbed. A lot of it is weather dependent. If the weather is there for us, people are out and about.”

Bedard said that she thought the Newport events would have had a bigger impact, but added that there was apparently a positive effect because her sales were up in June. Although, Bedard said people coming to town earlier this year because of the nice weather might have been the reason for the increased sales early in the summer.

Over at East Ferry, Spinnakers owner Mike Ridge reported that the summer of 2012 might have been his best year yet. Ridge annexed the vacant store next to his café and added a new dining room, which was an important factor in the increased business.

“There was obviously a real good stretch of good weather,” Ridge said. “We had a lot of events in town, and we expanded our space. When you put all three together, it really worked for us.”

Ridge plans to make further changes to his space in the offseason. He will install a wall-to-wall bifold door in the space in the back of his restaurant. He says when the door is opened in good weather, it will give the space an outdoor feel inside.

“It will provide an expansive view and bring the outdoors inside,” Ridge said.

For the first time Ridge is contemplating the possibility of remaining open beyond Columbus Day, which is when he has closed for the season in past years. Although no final decision has been made, Ridge is leaning in the direction of an expanded season.

“We’ve had a lot of support, so we’re probably going to do a little something,” Ridge said. “We just haven’t figured out what yet.”

Across the street, the East Ferry Deli also had a busy season. Owner Stacy Feight said it was one of her busiest summers in years. Like the other restaurant owners, she cited good weather as the primary factor in the successful season.

“We were busy even in the early spring because it was so warm,” Feight said, and added that the lack of rain also helped out. The America’s Cup World Series had a positive impact on business at the deli, but Feight said that the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival was a disappointment.

“On the day of the Parade of Sail, we were almost completely dead,” Feight said. “It was really strange because in the past the tall ships have been the busiest day of the year every single time. This one was just a very big disappointment.”

Steve Liebhauser at Slice of Heaven also reported a good year. “We were flat out from Memorial Day to Labor Day.” Although he couldn’t quantify it, he felt that the season’s special events had a positive impact, but also cited the nice weather as the primary reason for the successful summer.

“We’re going to go one more year at least,” Liebhauser laughed. “We’re going to renew our contract.”

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