Warning: Rant Ahead…
Rockporters need help (Selectmen? Economic Development Committee? Joe Citizen? Are you listening?). Besides a few very hearty, hard-working souls, we can’t get any restaurant-owners to keep their establishments open year-round. “But there are only 7,000 year-round residents!” I’m told. Well, it seems to me that 7,000 is not an insignificant number – small towns all over America manage to support downtown restaurants based on a similar number. My hometown in Ohio has 1,699 living souls occupying it – and ZERO tourists – yet it miraculously manages to support several eating establishments, from pizza places to family restaurants. I know – it’s a chicken-and-egg thing. Locals don’t come downtown to eat because there are so few places open and then restaurants don’t stay open because there is no one coming to eat. And of course restaurant owners are used to gauging success by the numbers they do in the summer, so the off-season numbers must seem pretty paltry in comparison, even if the business is still profitable.
To add insult to injury, the Boston developer who owns the former Greenery Restaurant building, located in the heart of Dock Square and one of the only places where parties of four or more can be accommodated, has applied for a change-of-use approval for the location – he wants to turn it into yet another condo building! Meanwhile, shop owners all along Main Street and even several on Bearskin Neck stay open year-round in spite of the fact that locals don’t show up in great numbers (because why bother to shop if there’s nowhere to grab lunch for you and your friends?), and their revenue is decidedly more dicey than the revenue of food establishments. And then there is the Shalin Liu Performance Center, bravely forging ahead with programming throughout the entire Winter season. Presumably someone is filling those seats and those same people consume food, just like the rest of us. Where are they going to eat? And finally, it has been crushing to see that The Coffee Shop (fresh doughnuts and Nisu bread!) was scooped up by a local restaurant-owner, only to be immediately shut down just in time for the holidays. Merry Christmas, Rockport.
Restaurant owners: you’re killing us here! And Rockporters: you need to support your local restaurants, especially the ones who stay open year-round: Bean & Leaf Cafe, The Red Skiff, and Hula Moon (let me know if I forgot someone) and thank them for their support. It’s time that we Rockporters invest in our own downtown – or suffer the consequences.