One of Sag Harbor’s harbingers of spring will be missed this year. La Superica, the Mexican restaurant at the corner of Main Street and Ferry Road, famous for its burritos and perfect margaritas, which usually opens for business the week after St. Patrick’s Day, has closed.
The restaurant’s owner, Ken O’Donnell, said his current lease ends in April and his landlord, Double Star, Inc., had refused to extend it.
“We’ve tried negotiating a lease extension. It’s not because they raised the rent to a price I couldn’t afford,” he said. “It’s not because the length of the lease wasn’t long enough. There’s been nothing.”
Mr. O’Donnell said he had been assured that if he was a good tenant he would receive another 10-year lease, but when he tried to follow up with Double Star, he was told no promises could be made.
The company is owned by the Cheng family. Rose Cheng owns the Sing City Chinese takeout restaurant next to 7-Eleven. Her brother, Danny Cheng, is an owner of the Espresso takeout restaurant and the Yummylicious ice cream parlor that share space in the same building with La Superica.
On Tuesday, Mr. Cheng said he had nothing to do with the company’s decision and said he had no plans to move Espresso to the La Superica site. There have been rumors in the village that perhaps Sing City would move there instead, but Rose Cheng could not be reached for comment.
News of La Superica’s closing spread fast through a village, whose inhabitants have witnessed rapid change in recent years, including the closing last November of Conca D’Oro, a popular pizzeria and Italian restaurant on Main Street.
Mr. O’Donnell is a Sag Harbor Village trustee and he and Ed Deyermond became friends when they served together. “You can’t find a more upstanding guy who really loves Sag Harbor,” Mr. Deyermond said. “I feel bad for Kenny and his family, but I’m sure it will all work out for them.”
“When Ed came home, he told me to sit down because he had some bad news,” said Bethany Deyermond, adding she would miss the restaurant because of Mr. O’Donnell’s friendliness and generosity.
Two years ago, she said Mr. O’Donnell agreed to hold a fundraiser for the Sag Harbor Ladies Village Improvement Society on his opening night. “He gave us 20 percent and we didn’t have to do a thing,” she said.
Cathy Carlozzi, another longtime customer who traditionally celebrated her March 20 birthday at the restaurant, said she walked past on Saturday and saw Mr. O’Donnell inside. He summoned her over and presented her with a drawing of the harbor that hung in the restaurant as a going-away gift.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “The only thing you can do is wish the owners well and say thank you for the many years and many memories.”
Bruce Tait, a Sag Harbor yacht broker, said when he moved to the village in the 1970s, he ran Sag Harbor Sail and Pedal, which rented sailboats and bikes, in a building that was on the site of La Superica. Years later, when the Breakwater Yacht Club established its Wednesday night race series, the restaurant drew a large post-race crowd. “It was a bit of a shock to see it end so abruptly,” he said.
Mr. O’Donnell bought the restaurant in 1997 from Jeff Resnick who opened it in 1991.
He said he was concerned about the wellbeing of his staff. “My head chef has a wife and two kids, my second in command has a kid. They have responsibilities,” he said. “I told them if an offer comes up, to take it, because I have nothing to offer right now.”
Mr. O’Donnell, who lives in Sag Harbor with his wife, Kate, said last week that he would take some time to plan his immediate future. The O’Donnells’ youngest son, Ewan, attends Sag Harbor Elementary School and their older son, Bryant, attends DeMatha High School in Maryland.