At their peak, Ayhan Hassan’s Long Island restaurants numbered nine. Now, with the closing of Ayhan’s Shish Kebab in Plainview, they are down to five.
The very first Shish Kebab opened in Port Washington in 1980 — back when kebabs, hummus, pita and even strained Greek yogurt were almost exotic on Long Island. The second, the cavernous restaurant that anchored the Plainview Shopping Center on South Oyster Bay Road, opened in 1999 and closed on Sunday.
Hassan said that closing Plainview was a wrenching decision. “Customers were crying. I have a group of 50 ladies who come in and play mah-jongg every day — I don’t know where they are going to go.”
Ultimately, though, four factors made the closing inevitable: rent, property taxes, food costs and labor.
“Over the 18 years we were here,” he said, “the rent went up 64 percent. The taxes are $18 a square foot — and we’re at 5,400 square feet. Food costs have increased as well — and it’s not like we have raised our prices very much over the years.” He continued, “It’s getting harder and harder to find restaurant workers on Long Island, especially for a kitchen that still butchers its own meat and fish.”
After Plainview, Hassan opened variations on his Mediterranean theme in East Meadow (closed in 2014), Rockville Centre and Westbury (both of which closed last year), Baldwin and Great Neck. In Port Washington, he also owns Mediterranean Marketplace & Café and Fish On Main, an upscale seafood restaurant in addition to his original Shish Kebab.