Marc Rowan, a leader in the financial world, and Sean MacPherson, a leading hotelier, are preparing to open their hospitality businesses on the East End for what promises to be a challenging, unusual summer season. The Gosman family is planning the reopening of Gosman’s Seafood Restaurant, as well.
MacPherson is known for his boutique hotels, such as the Bowery Hotel, the Maritime Hotel, and the Jane in Manhattan. He has had to close them all, for the time being, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are completely shuttered,” he said May 15. The most painful aspect of the temporary closing, for him, was laying off more than 1000 employees.
He owns just one hotel he thinks he might be able to open soon: the Crow’s Nest in Montauk. He said the hotel offers unique attributes for re-opening in the era of COVID-19. One of the most important, where the rooms are accessed from two outdoor decks, is the three acres of land he has at his disposal.
MacPherson would like to utilize the three acres to allow guests to eat and drink while social distancing. He believes that transmission of the disease decreases outdoors. There is some science to back his theory up. “The effects of sunlight, heat, and humidity on viral survival all serve to minimize the risk to everyone when outside,” according to Dr. Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
“People have to behave respectfully,” MacPherson noted. “When people wear masks, people keep their distance, then it doesn’t seem to spread.”
He also owns Pharaoh’s Cottages to the east of the Crow’s Nest, cottages on Ditch Plains Road he has used in the past for staff, and a secluded house in Ditch Plains.
But MacPherson does not want quick turnover at Crow’s Nest. He would rather book guests for a week or two or more and allow time to thoroughly clean and disinfect rooms between stays.
Demand is the question: Will people come? “We are in a very fluid situation,” MacPherson said. “We have not yet made any commitments.” A key will be getting the restaurant open. That, MacPherson concedes, won’t happen until June or July. Like everyone else, he is watching Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings. The website is open for hotel reservations.
Rowan owns three well-known eateries: Duryea’s in Montauk, Lulu Kitchen and Bar in Sag Harbor, and the former Orient by the Sea at Orient Point. The latter has been under construction, and when it opens, will be Duryea’s Orient Point.
Lulu is already open for takeout only. That will remain the case for now.
Duryea’s in Montauk is open for takeout Thursday through Monday, noon to 7 PM. If it can be safely done, Rowan and general manager Steven Jauffrineau will open the restaurant when the governor gives his okay. The two are taking a long-term approach, creating a business model that can function, if need be, for the next couple of years.
The restaurant, when it can open, will be throttled way back. Gone will be the bar area. Those waiting for tables will have to wait in their cars. The mechanics of it all are still being worked out, they said.
Tables will be spaced out along the dock to allow social distancing. “Waiters will be wearing facemasks,” Jauffrineau said. “The protocols in place will be tight.”
And they will be able to serve those who pull up to one of the dock’s slips, allowing everyone to be a safe distance from one other. The customers won’t even have to get out of their boats.
The staff will be greatly reduced. Anyone coming to work from out of state will be required to go into quarantine for 14 days. Rowan owns the former Neptune Motel in downtown Montauk, as well as the former Ann Breyer’s Cottages in the dock area for staff housing.
Temperature checks will be taken before each shift. A maximum of two staffers can room together, and they must work in the same department, during the same shift.
While Rowan wants to reduce business in terms of capacity, he warns East Hampton residents, particularly those in Montauk, for what is ahead. “I think the Hamptons and Montauk are going to mobbed.” People aren’t traveling, he said, and they aren’t flying. “It is coming our way. It is going to be really busy, but there must be limits,” added Rowan.
Rowan agrees with MacPherson’s assessment on the health aspects of outdoor dining when it comes to “stopping the spread.”
Rowan also believes that it is important to allow people who have been cooped up for so long a safe, healthy way to go out and have some fun. “I think people are going to have a really hard time with extended quarantine,” he said.
Rowan’s net worth is estimated at over $3 billion. He is the founding partner of Apollo Global Management, which holds many times that amount in assets. He was asked to put his financial cap on for a moment. “To be an investor now is really interesting,” he said about the turbulent stock market. “It is intellectually fascinating.”
At the same time, he said, it is important to focus on those who are in need, those who have been displaced by the current pandemic, and those who are fighting on the front lines. Lulu, he said, is treating different hospital workers every week to free meals.
David Piacente, who has operated Gosman’s Seafood Restaurant for nine years, said that the restaurant will be offering takeout and curbside delivery for Memorial Day weekend, from noon to 8 PM. It is a modified menu, with a limited wine list. Gosman’s, he said, is now offering “online, contact free ordering to go. Just go to www.gosmans.com.” The online ordering app is on the home page.
Gosman’s is initiating a similar regime as Duryea’s in terms of staffing and staff housing. Any staffer who is not local will have to undergo 14-day quarantine.
“We have sanitizers all around the place. Workers log in with a temperature check,” said Piacente.
Piacente also believes that the expansive outdoor deck will allow for safe social distancing if and when restaurants are allowed to open. “We have tons of space for social distancing,” he noted.
Gosman’s will also offer, essentially, a contact-free experience to restaurant customers. They will be able to order and pay for the meal, while seated at a socially distanced table, using their cell phones.
Finally, Piacente believes the first step to reopening is simple, yet challenging: getting back the public’s trust.