By Claire Walla
The fight for the restaurant concession at the Poxabogue Golf Course in Sagaponack is a veritable standoff between two stock characters vying for the contract to run the eatery: “ol’ reliable” and “the new kid on the block.”
Longtime Poxabogue operator Dan Murray — who ran the Fairway Restaurant at the golf course for more than 20 years until last March — answered Southampton Town’s Request for Proposals (RFP) with a plan titled T to Green. Murray didn’t respond to several messages left on his voice mailbox, so the details of his site proposal are still unknown. He will compete with the only other RFP submitted for the site, Hamptons Eats LLC, submitted by Gunnar Myers and David Kuperschmid, who formed their organization just this month in direct response to the town’s RFP.
According to Southampton Town Assistant Attorney Joe Burke, the town is not obligated to release information on either proposal at this time. Certain stipulations within the state’s Freedom of Information Law “enable the Town to withhold records to the extent that disclosure ‘would impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations,’” he clarified in an email. In other words, because contract negotiations are currently up-in-the-air and all details of the contract — including costs — are subject to change, the town is at liberty to keep all records confidential for the time being.
However, a statement issued by Myers and Kuperschmid reveals some of their plans for the site: “Our vision is to create a modern luncheonette featuring all of the classics, new takes on old favorites, great salads, and a kids’ menu with healthy choices.” The proposal also calls for a renovation that will add “a stylish new counter with swivel stools, all new kitchen equipment, furniture and floors, and an update of the interior space.”
According to an email from Kuperschmid, he and Myers have been developing restaurant concepts together for over a year, but this is the start of their foray as Hamptons Eats LLC into the business here on the East End. Myers has spent 30 years in the restaurant business, operating such restaurants as Napeague Stretch in Amagansett and helping to developing what’s now The Boathouse in East Hampton.
The town’s RFP came after nearly a year of searching for a food service operator for the Poxabogue restaurant site, during which time Southampton Town — which owns the property along with East Hampton Town — spent money to refurbish the small restaurant building, which had been hit with reports of mold and was in need of repair. In fact, one of the reasons Murray severed ties with Poxabogue last March was because then-building manager Ed Wankel of Long Island Golf Management proposed changes to the lease that would have upped the rent and required Murray to pay for building upgrades.
Now, not only has the town taken charge of revamping the building, it’s renegotiated its contract with Wankel and taken responsibility of managing the restaurant itself.
As to finding an adequate operator for the site, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town will remain true to the [wishes/vision] of the Village of Sagaponack.
“The community really wanted to see an operator that stayed in character with what was there [previously],” she said. “It was family-style and low-key. There was concern that the village had, not to turn it into a bar or a dinner operation.”
She continued, “We want to keep the character of Poxabogue in tact.”
Though the town will stay within the bounds of what the community wants to see, Throne-Holst added, “We’re open to any number of suggestions and improvements.”
The original RFP form stipulated that the restaurant can be open to serve breakfast, lunch and light dinner but must be closed by 7 p.m. The form also indicated that a decision will be made by February 22 regarding which proposal will ultimately win the Poxabogue contract. However, both Throne-Holst and town councilman Chris Nuzzi said that particular date might be a little too optimistic. The town board still needs to hear from both parties regarding their proposals and discuss the terms of the lease. Nuzzi said the most important aspects, at this point, as far as the town’s concerned are the restaurateurs background information and financial viability.
“We realize we’re working with somewhat of an abbreviated time frame,” Nuzzi continued, adding that the board hopes to come to a decision as soon as possible so that the contract can be awarded before the start of the spring season.