Wednesday, November 03, 2010

How Was Your Weekend?

Tall Ships Invade the Harbor - photo from Sultana's Website

We made it through Down Rigging Weekend in fine form, despite the crush of sailors downtown.  Our dinner business retained the robust attitude it has enjoyed for the past several months, while Friday and Saturday lunches were both seriously enhanced.  The thing about Down Rigging that sets it apart from other "festivals" held locally is that there are no street-side food vendors.  This may not play well with all of the non-profits in the area who benefit tremendously from events like the T-Party, making a large portion of their annual revenue selling crabcakes and lemonade to the thousands of tourists who descend on Chestertown the last weekend of every May.  But for the local brick-and-mortar restaurant trade, having a busy Halloween weekend - which corresponded this year with the World Series - is something to be thankful for.  Especially for those of us who are knowingly headed into our slow winter holiday months.  

The extra crush of business certainly caused a few headaches - we had a major demand for tables at the typically prime 7/7:30 time slots, and when the wait for arrivals at 6:30 was an hour, few stayed. Jeff told us that the wait at the FishWhistle was 2 hours starting at 5PM on Saturday night.  But here's the trick: get your name on that wait list, and come back at 7PM, 8PM for your "reservation".  That is how some of our guests phrased it to me, when I put them down for their 60 minute wait - "So basically we have an 8:15 reservation?"  We had our share of disgruntled customers - mostly those who were unhappy with our weekend policy of waiting until the entire party has arrived before seating the group at a table.  At one point I was informed that "maybe you don't understand that this man is the head of a huge corporation".  To this I could only reply, "Then I am sure he understands how I am trying to treat everyone fairly".  There was not much response to this, but they did sit at the bar until the second half of their party arrived, and were seated at the requested booth - which I had been able to hold for them. 

The fact is, there are not enough restaurants in Chestertown.  One gentleman said to me "there are thousands of people down town, and only three restaurants open to serve them".  And it's not only once a year that we need more - as I have said in this venue, and as I spoke to people all weekend, we need more professionally run, full service, independent dining places all year round.  More restaurants bring more diners and more jobs, which hopefully brings more qualified workers to fill those positions.  We look forward to the success of the fledgling "Lemon Leaf Cafe" on Cross Street, and to the new bakery at the end of High Street.  We can only hope that Mr. Wright gets his act together to pull Brix up out of the depths, to add much needed variety to the downtown scene.  Here in UpHi, Frank and Betty continue to do a bang up job at O'Connors, but they have the same labor issues as everyone else, which are partly the result of  the constant reshuffling from the limited applicant pool.

Thanks to all of our regulars and locals who support us - we couldn't do it without you!  And thanks to all the first-timers and one-timers - we appreciate you giving us a chance.

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