Hurricane Sandy’s Effect on Restaurants, Food Suppliers

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After Hurricane Sandy hammered the East Coast and merged into another huge weather system, the violent storm continued its westerly path inland killing well over 60 people in the United States.

News reports indicate power outages now stand at more than 6.3 million homes and businesses, down from a peak of 8.5 million.

Cargo shipping on the Great Lakes was at a standstill because of waves of up to 20 feet. New York City’s subway system remained crippled, and more than half of all gasoline service stations in the New York City area and New Jersey were shut because of exhausted fuel supplies and power outages.

“Reports of long lines, dark stations and empty tanks circulated across the region. Some station owners were unable to pump fuel due to a lack of power, while others quickly ran their tanks dry because of increased demand and logistical problems in delivering fresh supplies.”

National Guard trucks moved into heavily flooded Hoboken to deliver ready-to-eat meals and other supplies and to evacuate people from their high-rise condos and homes.

In one unthinkable report, shameless looters, taking advantage of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, actually posted photographs of their stolen goods on Twitter and bragged about how they plan to carry out more thefts and violence.”

All of this frenetic chaos has extracted a heavy toll on restaurants and food suppliers.

Reporting for Business First, Dan Eaton indicated Atlantic fishing operations and shipments by air and highway from the East Coast are at a standstill, placing in jeopardy the supply of lobster, crab, salmon, cod, and haddock.

Eaton explained that Frank Gonzalez, owner of wholesaler Columbus Fish & Seafood LLC and two Frank’s Fish & Seafood Markets in Hilliard and Cincinnati, expects his sales to be down as much as 50 percent in the next week or two due to the problems created by the storm.

His business services more than 350 accounts in Ohio and Kentucky, some of which receive fresh shipments several times a week, if not daily. The shortage has left restaurateurs with a choice when it comes to certain seafood — frozen or nothing.

“We can only offer frozen,” Gonzalez said. “Some restaurants will take that. Some don’t. When you have something of this magnitude — 600 miles wide — there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.

“We’ll weather through it, but it hurts. Everyone’s going to be impacted.”

Trying to stock ahead of the storm wasn’t an option. “You can’t buy fresh fish and sit on it,” he said.”

With 20-plus years in wholesaling, Gonzalez expects Hurricane Sandy to be among the most damaging storms to his business.

Some Restaurants and Bars Defiantly Stayed Open

Even though Sandy hit the Tun Tavern with four-and-a-half feet of water on Monday night, the restaurant stayed open to service rescue workers and anyone else who needed to eat and drink.

After Tun Tavern lost power, workers were in the kitchen alongside National Guard shifts and in-between CNN interviews. “We were cooking by candlelight,” said owner (and former Marine) Montgomery Dahm.

“I felt felt obligated to do this, along with everybody on my staff.”

On Monday night, the Tavern served meatballs and marinara, hot roast-beef sandwiches, bratwurst, turkey sandwiches, and chicken salad — all without power.

“There was nothing else open. We had to be open,” general manager Danielle Battistone said. But by Tuesday night, even the Tun Tavern staff had to be with their families instead.

“Our cell phones are dying,” Battistone said. “The convention center has electricity and has graciously provided some refrigeration for us, and we’re all in this fighting together.”

Ducktown Tavern and Liquors stayed open serving burgers and wings to about 30 customers remaining in the evacuated town, mostly police officers.

Drinkers packed into bars along the East Coast during the worst of Hurricane Sandy despite warnings from officials everywhere not to leave the house.

Eater reports people were using Twitter to relay coordinates of open bars, such as New York City’s Epstein’s Bar or French Roast, where people partied by candlelight.

Bostonians found Washington Square Tavern open while Washingtonians waited for the hurricane at The Blaguard.

And Eater added there were hurricane parties at Hampton, New Hampshire’s LeBec Rouge where Foster’s Daily Democrat found three chefs from a neighboring storm-shuttered restaurant hanging out.

“And the WFMY news team found what they believe to be the only bar that remained open in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.”

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper

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