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Vanderbilt museum rethinks contract with Thatched Cottage

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. Credit: Ed Betz

The Thatched Cottage in Centerport has lost a key client as a result of its owner's recent decision to file for bankruptcy protection.

The board of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum voted at its Jan. 15 meeting to issue a new request for proposals for its catering and on-site food services. Thatched Cottage owner Ralph Colamussi filed for Chapter 11 on Jan. 2.

"We felt as a board that we would be breaching our fiduciary responsibility to the Vanderbilt and to the citizens of Suffolk County if we decided to enter into a contract with Mr. Colamussi," said board vice president Joseph Dujmic. "We decided it would be in the Vanderbilt's best interest to seek additional bids," Dujmic said.

Colamussi said he thought the job was his after a contract was drafted and the county legislature authorized the board last July to sign a deal.

Dujmic said Colamussi reached out to him days before the January meeting, but a scheduled sit-down on the afternoon of the vote was canceled.

Colamussi cited costs associated with damage from Tropical Storm Irene and superstorm Sandy in filing Chapter 11. Since then, several couples have canceled their wedding receptions.

Colamussi said Thursday he read about the vote in the news. It was published last week in The Long Islander. "This was done completely behind my back," he said. "As far as I am concerned, I am in and people are going to have to honor their word."

He said he had created a separate corporation for his Vanderbilt business and had signed the agreement, but Vanderbilt officials had not.

The contract was slated to begin this month. It would have guaranteed 18 weddings a year, which would have brought the museum $135,000 in site fees in the first year. The deal would have also relieved the museum of its $30,000 annual cost of maintaining a tent on site.

The caterer would have been able to open as many as two snack bars in the newly refurbished planetarium and a bistro at the museum's carriage house theater.

Vanderbilt Executive Director Lance Reinheimer said they were expecting about $200,000 in additional revenue from the pact.

Colamussi said he expected to make up to $100,000 in net revenue in the first year.

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