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Shelter Island businesses ready for Labor Day

Sweet Tomato's Restaurant and Bar, in Shelter Island,

Sweet Tomato's Restaurant and Bar, in Shelter Island, is expecting normal business Labor Day Weekend, despite Tropical Storm Irene. (Aug. 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

When Vine Street Cafe on Shelter Island decided to open for dinner on Sunday night despite Tropical Storm Irene, Chef Terry Harwood was reminded of the blackout in 2003 when the restaurant also stayed open.

During the blackout, the restaurant didn't have a generator, which it's since purchased, so Harwood bought a grill and cooked whatever was in the restaurant's fridge on the patio.

"We asked the customers to keep their headlights on and shine them on us," he said.

Harwood said that with the help of a generator, the restaurant served about 120 tables Sunday night and business has returned to normal since then. He said he expects Labor Day weekend to be as successful as ever.

"We are seeing our number of reservations unchanged," he said.

It's a relief for an industry that relies on making a year's worth of profit in 10 weekends, said Jeffrey Eklund, a manager at Chequit Inn and Restaurant.

"Moving that down to nine weekends is really difficult," he said.

During the storm, only three of the inn's 37 rooms were occupied when normally there would be no vacancies.

Sweet Tomato's Restaurant and Bar in Shelter Island Heights also purchased generators to be able to stay open when the power went out but had limited business.

General Manager James Rando said they only served a few tables, which dined on paper plates and drank $200 bottles of wine out of plastic cups because they didn't have enough back-up power to run the dishwasher.

"But I think those people will always remember where they ate a meal during the storm," he said.

Sweet Tomato's is still without phone or Internet though the electricity is back on. The establishment is cash-only until it goes back online.

Manager Keith Bavaro said it would be difficult to deal with that over Labor Day weekend - and he's expecting a full house - but said he would make do.

"It is what it is," he said. "There was a storm. People have been understanding."

Chris Gross, owner of Two South Ferry Bed and Breakfast, which has three rooms, said she anticipated losing power and so canceled one reservation and told the two that had already gotten there to leave on Saturday.

"What can I do for you without power?" she said.

But she did end up with some guests after all - Long Island Power Authority employees who were stationed on the island during the storm.

Gross said she's not feeling confident about Labor Day weekend because she still doesn't have any of her rooms booked. She said she's hoping for a good weather forecast, which will bring the customers.

"But it's just like the storm," she said "You never know."

Eklund disagrees.

"You can set your watch by Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend," he said. "It will be the normal raucous pandemonium that we restaurant folks enjoy."

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