Babalu, Huntington’s popular Cuban-Mediterranean restaurant helmed by ex-boxer Alan Gotay, will close permanently on June 15.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Gotay said, from rising rent and food costs to labor shortages. “I feel like the landscape of Huntington has changed in the last few years. People aren’t dining out as frequently as they used to, especially during middays during the week. I don’t know if it’s the cost of living or the cost of going out, but I’ve definitely noticed it.”
Babalu opened in 2017 with a small, 21-seat dining room and quickly became a victim of its own success, leading Gotay and his family to double its size, in 2020. After a four-month renovation, Babalu reopened with live music, a bigger bar offering specialty cocktails, an expanded menu and a kitchen “as big as the whole restaurant used to be,” Gotay said at the time.
Over the past two months, he has been working that big kitchen all by himself, he said, a grueling period he traces to ongoing labor issues. As such, Babalu’s closing next week will be a bittersweet affair.
“I’ll miss the connections I’ve made and the people I’ve met through my food,” Gotay said. “That will be the hardest part of it.” On the other hand, it will free him up for private dinners and catering jobs he’s currently forced to refuse.
“Besides, at the end of the day,” said Gotay, “a restaurant is just four walls and a space. I’ll take my skill set with me.”
Babalu, 286 New York Ave., Huntington, 631-683-4666, babaluny.com