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Buschel’s Battles: Resto-blogger riffs on the misfortunes pre-opening

Posted on 09 September 2010

It has been tough going for Bruce Buschel, a writer and restaurateur hopeful. For the better part of a year Buschel has attempted to open Southfork Kitchen — a barn-style, seafood-oriented eatery on the Bridgehampton Turnpike at the site of the former Wild Rose Café.

From finding a chef and creating a logo to navigating the county and town permitting process, Buschel chronicles every inch of his journey for a column which appears on the New York Times website blog titled “You’re the Boss.” On August 26, it was that time in the start-up process for Buschel to muse on the travails of installing, and garnering town approval, for a sign.

“A restaurant needs a sign. The one I have in mind will have black lower-case letters painted on a piece of Philippine mahogany with a little light above it. It will stand in front of the building, in the garden, two-sided so you can see it when traveling north and south … It will say Southfork Kitchen. That’s the name of the restaurant,” Buschel opined in his piece. “But first, a permit is needed.”

“For one sign with two words, I will need a designer, an electrician, an engineer, a painter, a sign company, a construction team, wood posts, wood panels, paint, bolts, lights, a bag of cement, and a lawyer …,” wrote Buschel detailing the manpower and materials required for this small aspect of his larger project.

Buschel received a bit of good news from the Southampton Town Planning Board on Thursday, September 2, when it unanimously approved his sign (without board member Jacqui Lofaro who was absent). In addition, Buschel was allowed to make certain amendments to the site plan including forgoing two rear windows in favor of two barn doors. The planning board also allowed Buschel to eliminate a maintenance bond requirement from the original site plan approval and change the landscape plan to knock out one tree, which will provide more sunlight for the front garden.

In the process of retelling his tribulations, or imparting advice, on his blog, Buschel has gained many followers. Some call Buschel’s entries amusing, funny, and spot-on. While others have been drawn to scorn Buschel’s insights. A few were even so impassioned as to start a Facebook page named “Boycott Bruce Buschel’s Restaurant.” Buschel’s particular post, which elicited this fervor, was a two-part October 2009 piece on his “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do.” The column has received 1,158 comments thus far.

Buschel had expected to open the doors of his rustic restaurant by July and hoped to draw in the summer crowds, but it appears life and other mishaps got in the way.

“‘You’re giving birth … Don’t force it. It will happen in its own good time. Now get back to work,’” Buschel quoted a public relations maven as saying when he realized that his business wouldn’t be ready when he had hoped.

“Even as I hyperventilate like a crazed Lamaze mama, one question echoes down each inhalation: Where did I go wrong?” Buschel asks himself, giving a series of answers, “I was green … I was optimistic … I thought the announcement of a certain date in a public forum would rally the troops and realign the stars … I was blindsided by last-minute changes … [and] I did not understand bureaucracy.”

In a post from last Wednesday, September 1, Buschel recounted a hectic day in late August, which didn’t bode well for the project launching before the end of summer. Rain interrupted scheduled asphalt work, which in a domino effect would ultimately delay his ability to get a liquor license any time soon. Two refrigerator motors were fritzed out. Replacements needed to be ordered. A request to the town for a 30-day extension of his construction permit was reportedly refused, requiring him to pay $2,300 for a time period of six months of additional work.

Despite these numerous delays and headaches, Buschel appears to still keep his spirits somewhat level. He rationalizes, “Personally, I am starting to suspect a conspiracy, but my better angels tell me not to take any of this day personally lest drastic and indubitably self-destructive actions would ensue.”

Buschel has yet to update eager readers on when the new opening day for his restaurant will be.

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