The entire staff of about 250 employees at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho, including the establishment's village shops, have been sent layoff notices in anticipation of the property's lease expiration at the end of the year, Owen T. Smith, longtime operator of the inn, said Wednesday night.
Smith made his remarks to around 140 Long Island residents, concerned about the future of the inn, which dates to the 1600s, who had gathered for a meeting at the Knights of Columbus hall in Hicksville. Smith said that due to the Dec. 31 expiration of his operating license and lease, letters were sent to employees Oct. 1.
The state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires companies with 50 or more full-time employees to file a 90-day notice of a planned closing or mass layoff.
Smith, 78, whose family owned and operated the property, which dates to the 1600s, for more than 50 years, had previously announced plans to retire at the end of the year after selling the Milleridge in April to Kimco Realty, a New Hyde Park-based real estate investment trust, for $7.5 million.
The new owner is currently searching for another operator for the property.
"We are working with Kimco and doing everything we can to see a continuation of operations," said Smith, adding that many employees have been with the Milleridge for more than 30 years. The hope, he said, would be to find a new operator soon enough to maintain a "continuity of employment," and that operators he's spoken to have expressed interest in retaining the staff.
Kimco has been speaking with several Island-based restaurateurs and potential operators weekly and will make a decision as soon as possible, Nicholas Brown, vice president of development for Kimco's Northeast region, said at the meeting.
The meeting was hosted by members of Save the Milleridge, a Facebook page meant to raise community awareness of the property. The page's organizer, Plainview resident Sheila Doherty, arranged the forum for concerned patrons and the real estate company.
"We want to keep loving the Milleridge, and we want it to stay similar," Doherty said during the meeting. "We know that change is inevitable, but we hope" Kimco keeps the site's history in mind.
Throughout the meeting residents expressed fondness for the Milleridge and implored the site's new owner to choose an operator carefully.
Brown said that no decisions have been made regarding future uses of the site but that Kimco intends to continue engaging the community as information becomes available.
"At this point, we haven't ruled anything out, but it really is very early for us to make any concrete decisions," he said. "It's going to be a process evaluating all the different, potential uses."Kimco has contracted with BKSK Architects of Manhattan and Steward Preservation Services of Huntington as part of its review.
Doherty's campaign has generated more than 2,900 likes on Facebook, while nearly 15,000 signatures have been added to an online petition created by Merrick resident James Muller, a former history teacher and current principal of the Aichhorn School in Manhattan.