For Daniel Vega, manager of Edward’s Steakhouse, November 2012 was like a bad flashback to August 2011.
“Last year, with Irene, we had maybe three feet of water on the first floor,” said Vega. “This year we had about seven feet of water. Last year, I was able to repair a lot of the equipment. I was able to salvage about 80 percent of what I had. This year, I lost all of it. I mean, every piece of equipment in that kitchen is gone.”
Edward’s is among a handful of businesses in Jersey City that remain closed due to damage they sustained during Hurricane Sandy. While most businesses were closed for a few days while they waited for power to be restored or while they completed minor clean up and repairs, others saw their entire kitchens and seating areas wiped out entirely.
Most of these businesses – Edward’s Steakhouse, Tommy 2 Scoops, Skylark on the Hudson, and others – have vowed to re-open in the New Year after major repairs have been completed on their businesses. It is unclear whether other businesses, such as the Pointe in Liberty State Park, will be able to reopen.
Even for the businesses that plan to reopen, the suspension of their operations at the end of the year means the loss of significant revenue.
“This is the holiday season and we have a lot of office parties booked,” said Michael Ryan, owner of PJ Ryan’s and Michael Anthony’s. “Every day you have to be closed is a day of lost revenue from your regular customers, but also from the parties that have to be cancelled.”
‘It’s important to me that I don’t lose my kitchen staff and my wait staff, so I’m trying to keep them employed until we can reopen.’ – Daniel Vega
Now that he has reopened, Ryan said his regular customers, in addition to customers from the local hotels, have returned to their level of pre-Sandy patronage.
But his recovery, he said, was tough.
“We had 44 inches of water in Michael Anthony’s. And it wasn’t a flood. The water didn’t come in and sit. It was a storm surge. The water came in and drained out pretty quickly. Right away I made the decision to cover the clean up costs out of my own pocket. I knew that if I let that water sit I’d lose everything.”
Most businesses, like Edward’s, were told by their insurance companies not to begin clean up or renovations until after a company representative had visited their spaces and assessed the damage, but waiting for those visits left equipment and other supplies vulnerable to damage.
Vega said it took about five days for his insurance rep to visit his restaurant.
“Now that this has happened two years in a row, what I’ve decided to do is move the kitchen from the ground floor to the second floor,” said Vega, who has had to replace everything.
The restaurant previously had two dining areas on the second floor. One of those areas will now be moved down to the ground level to make room for the kitchen upstairs. The planned renovations are a major undertaking, but Vega hopes they will prevent his kitchen from being wiped out when the next storm comes through.
At present, Edward’s is on track to reopen by Valentine’s Day, Vega said.
Skylark on the Hudson hopes to reopen next month and Tom Parisi, owner of Tommy 2 Scoops, hopes to re-open in time for the 2013 spring season.
“One if my big concerns right now is my staff,” said Vega. “It’s important to me that I don’t lose my kitchen staff and my wait staff, so I’m trying to keep them employed until we can reopen.”
His business insurance, he said, would pay his staff for suspension of operations due to a fire, but not due to a flood. So, he has reached out to other restaurants in Jersey City and Hoboken to ask his friend in the industry to hire some of his staff until Edward’s re-opens its doors.
Other Edward’s employees are doing light construction work around Hudson County – again with Vega’s assistance – to earn extra money until February.
Despite the headaches, Vega said the recent hurricanes have not soured him on owning a service-based business along the Jersey City waterfront.
“No, not at all,” he said. “It’s a great place to have a business and I love what we’ve created here. When we come back we’re going to be even better. It’s going to be a very masculine sort of wine bar décor. I think the community is going to respond very well to what we have planned when we re-open.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.