New Life on Main Street

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By Marissa Maier

No matter the season Sag Harbor Village is often bustling with activity and the commercial hub of the village is mainly populated by year-round establishments. Over the past year, though, there have been two noticeable exceptions on Main Street. Grappa Wine Bar and JLX, defunct restaurants once owned and operated by Edward “Jean-Luc” Kleefield, have been closed for the better part of a year, JLX opening for one day l;ast season. One could look through the floor to ceiling front windows of Grappa and see that the neatly laid out silverware and plates had begun to collect dust. The JLX building, a comely structure painted in mustard yellow and accented in red, lay dormant.

Above: An exterior image of the former Grappa Wine Bar.

In the past few weeks, a couple of “Help Wanted” signs appeared in the window of JLX and both spaces have been quietly undergoing renovations. Edward Burke, Jr., who owns the building where Grappa Wine Bar once operated, admits that something new is in the works for his property.

“I am in negotiations with a professional in the business,” Burke said. He added that the person in question plans to create a “family-oriented establishment,” but he declined to name the potential restaurant operator.

Down the street, Peter Chris, who is working in conjunction with a group of unnamed partners, revealed the details for “La Maison,” an American Bistro style eatery that is expected to open its doors at the former JLX building by late May. Chris disclosed that his partners are also the owners of Trata Restaurant in Water Mill.

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Above: The former site of JLX, which will soon be transformed into La Maison, an American bistro.

“We believe in a hands-on approach,” Chris said. “The owner needs to be present on the floor during operating hours.”

Chris said the group plans to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner service and hopes to stay open until 2 a.m. Executive chef Steve Putnam, former chef at Pierre’s in Bridgehampton and partner of New Paradise Cafe, said “La Maison” will use local ingredients and highlight “bright, clean flavors,” though he didn’t name particular dishes that will appear on the menu.

“My goal is to make it simple and fun,” Putnam added.

Of the decor, Chris said they will maintain the look of JLX and have merely sanded down a few tables and spruced up the space.

“This place did not need a change. It is cool but fancy. The floors are being touched up. We are fixing the booths and bar area. It needed a lot of work but it wasn’t a demolition [project],” said Chris who added he hopes to offer a selection of French and American wines. As of yet, “La Maison” hasn’t been issued a liquor license by the New York State Liquor Authority.

However, former JLX owner Kleefield said in an emailed statement, “I am obligated to preserve the assets of my partnership JLX, LLC, which includes all its contents fixtures, furniture, kitchen equipment now being altered and used by a tenant … Part of preserving those assets for me includes renewing said liquor license which may have to be placed in safekeeping while litigation is continuing, which I am advised it may lead to until a final determination is made.”

When asked about the new tenant at 16 Main Street, the former site of JLX, the building’s owner Joe Montecello said on Tuesday, “I really can’t talk about it.”

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Above: A remnant of the building’s former life.

For now, it appears “La Maison” will move into the space. And as of Wednesday, one remnant of Kleefield’s tenure in the building remained behind. On the left hand side of the front edifice there is a small bronze plaque with “JLX 16” etched onto it.

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