Thatched Cottage links with owner of Westbury Manor

The Thatched Cottage in Centerport, seen on Jan. The Thatched Cottage in Centerport, seen on Jan. 14, 2014. The East Main Street business opened in 1915 as a restaurant. Ralph Colamussi purchased it 26 years ago, running it as a restaurant and catering facility before closing the restaurant. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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The owner of the Thatched Cottage has struck a partnership deal with another Long Island caterer, who has promised to help the struggling Centerport business stay afloat.

The pact must be approved by the bankruptcy court and is expected to go before a judge on March 17 in Central Islip.

Thatched Cottage owner Ralph Colamussi, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, said he was grateful for the partnership.

The agreement signed Friday makes Gino Scotto, chief financial officer and co-owner of Westbury Manor, the Thatched Cottage's manager and chief restructuring officer during its bankruptcy proceedings. Scotto will take charge of financial decisions for the Thatched Cottage, said his attorney, Scott Levine of Manhattan.

Colamussi will be involved in the business, said Avrum Rosen, the Huntington-based attorney for the Thatched Cottage. A reorganization plan will be submitted that is slated to give Scotto 51 percent control, once the catering business emerges from bankruptcy, Rosen said.

Since the bankruptcy protection filing, which Colamussi attributed to costs associated with damage from Tropical Storm Irene and superstorm Sandy, Rosen said, 26 weddings at the nearly century-old catering hall have been canceled.

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Scotto, 44, of Upper Brookville, has agreed to personally guarantee deposits at the Thatched Cottage, effective March 3, so "brides and grooms don't have to worry that their money is at risk," Levine said.

If the company cannot return the deposit, Scotto will pay for it, Levine said.

"His goal is to provide the best service possible so the brides and grooms can have the best experience possible on this happy occasion," Levine said. He said Scotto plans to renovate the entire facility.

Scotto is to accrue 15 percent of the business' monthly earnings, which he would receive in the future. He also plans to give the Thatched Cottage up to $200,000 for operating costs and up to another $200,000 to come out of bankruptcy, Rosen said.

In 2011, Westbury Manor officials agreed to pay $610,000 to settle a U.S. Labor Department lawsuit, charging the business with contempt for failing to pay nearly 100 current and former employees overtime and minimum wage, violating the terms of the 2005 agreement requiring the company to comply with labor laws. Gino Scotto was not named in that suit, Levine said.The Thatched Cottage opened as a restaurant on East Main Street in 1915. Colamussi purchased it about 26 years ago, running it as a restaurant and catering facility before closing the restaurant.

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