A Plea for Help

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.

18 thoughts on “A Plea for Help

  1. Actually, The Coffee Shop’s new owners are the same family, just different members of the family.

    If these restaurants want locals to come out and eat, they need to lower their prices and do something that will actually attract the locals. Baked cod is nothing special to the people who live here. It might draw in tourists, but not the locals…

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  2. Don’t forget the Rock-Hop Sarah (Rockport House of Pizza) — our only downtown establishment where evening cuisine is available in the winter. Gosh, we miss the old Chowder House when it had its home where Top Dog is now.

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  3. I really miss The Chowder House too! We would eat in Rockport in a heartbeat as we live walking distance from downtown. I would especially love a kid friendly place with decent food. Gloucester has some great restaurants so I don’t know why we can get a few of those in Rockport. We were also hoping having the Shalin Liu center here would attract some decent restaurants with a non-traditional menu.

    I’m pretty sure Lograssos is open during the winter however they are only open a couple nights a week. The owners are actually my neighbors.

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    1. Hey Sarah, Thanks for the great press and cute model in the Sheepskin hat.
      Yes Yes Lograsso’s Wednesday thru Saturday….. We had to go to Gloucester for a drink and kill an hour while waiting for a table last week…
      Do not forget the Emerson Inn and Bistro 127 a little up scale and in the “Cove” but it’s still part of Rockport and great for special occassions.
      Some new “Venue’s” will have to be created. Outside dining ??? Where…
      Maybe a Rockport Brew Pub, whats the story with the new South Street Tea Room ??
      Look forward to further comments.

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  4. It is ridiculous having no coffee shop or restaurant of any type, the people that work in the shops need to eat also. I remember one fall, when living there, hearing some
    tourists discussing eating dinner @ 4:00 pm because there was no other place open.
    That must be real good for business. They actually said next time they would stay in
    Gloucester. Good for us !!!! What happened to the bagel shop , it sounded like they
    were chased out of town.
    D

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  5. Sigh. It’s such a shame. There’s nothing that I’d like more than to walk to dinner, but we always end up driving to Gloucester.

    There really is local business to be captured in the winter. Here’s the sticky wicket: the food has to be good enough to get us out of our own kitchens. No one is doing that right now.

    I love the cheery staff at the Red Skiff, and have wolfed down more than a few of Rock-Hop’s tasty roast beef sandwiches, but in terms of dinner all the restaurants seem to be perfectly content making mediocre tourist food and shuttering for the winter.

    Of the ones that do stay open, at least a couple have serious cleanliness problems that prevent me from visiting frequently. One local venue is often overrun with flies, and in another I was shocked by the grime and spiderwebs in the dining room, which bodes poorly for the kitchen. Now, if only the fly-ridden place had a few more spiders, that might help matters!

    Above-par food (doesn’t need to be fancy), cozy atmosphere, good service and cleanliness. Is it too much to ask?

    If someone built it, we would come.

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    1. You said it! I find it interesting that when the booze issue came up, all the restaurant owners said that if they could have liquor they would be able to stay open year round. Ironically, now that we have booze, the only restaurants open year round are those without liquor licenses!

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      1. Crazy, right? Their excuse is that, by law, they have to stay open four days a week for 8 hours a day to keep a year-round liquor license, so most of them only keep seasonal licenses. This doesn’t quite hold up, however, as there are multiple non-food related businesses (with much more sluggish revenue in the winter) that stay open four days a week, all day long. Strange.

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  6. Rent is the same. but cost of food, unknown patronage + spoilage of fresh goods, energy costs? easy to say a restaurant should stay open but is it worth it to the owners? We love to walk rockport during the off season and have a cup of coffee from bean and leaf but everything else for the most part is closed.

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