Restaurants find different ways to weather the storm

The weekend snowstorm was fierce, but not powerful enough to force Tony O’Brien to close shop. Although only one other staff member made it to work on Saturday, the owner of Mission Hill bar Flann O’Brien’s was determined to keep his restaurant open – even when that meant cooking the food himself.

“A lot of people couldn’t get to work, we had to make do with what we had,” O’Brien said.

His was just one of several restaurants that stayed open for at least a portion of the weekend despite the large snowstorm, which paralyzed much of Massachusetts and closed roads, schools, and nearly all businesses, and despite Governor Deval Patrick closing the state’s roads from 4 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Saturday.

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“Anytime you lose a Friday night is a big deal in the restaurant industry. Losing a Friday and Saturday night is an even bigger deal. For some places, Thursday night was affected by the storm too, because everyone knew what was coming,” Peter Christie, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association said.

Tavern on the Square in New Center was one of the restaurants that closed Thursday and stayed closed all weekend.

“It was a matter of safety for our staff,” said manager Tony Beaumont. “We would have been busy. There was supposed to be a Bruins game and a Celtics game, but it was not a tough decision to close, because we worry about keeping our people safe first.

Tavern will remain closed after the storm for planned renovations. Beaumont expects the eatery to reopen in March.

In some cases restaurants were not able to open fully, but did what they could to serve customers. Vic’s Boat House in Salem, which is the bar side of the Victoria’s Station restaurant was closed Friday, but opened on Saturday.

“It took a lot shoveling, said Victoria’s Station/Vic’s Boathouse general manager Elizabeth Collett, and we went with a limited menu, but Vic’s Boat House filled up. We would have done better had the whole restaurant been open, but we did what w3e could.”

Both restaurants were open Sunday and Collett said they “did average business because people really wanted to get out.”

In the city, it was a little easier for some establishments, since in some cases employees can walk to work. Business owners and managers of Boston restaurants said sales seemed to be consistent with what they would do on a non-storm day, which they credited mostly to the cabin fever people experience during storms. Some, like Flann O’Brien’s, reported higher profits than a usual weekend. O’Brien said his bar saw 30 percent more business than on a usual weekend.

“We were at capacity by 10 p.m. on Saturday night,” he said. “It was a very busy weekend, busier than a usual weekend.”

Some restaurants, citing the closed roads and shut down MBTA, shut down for at least one day over the weekend. Paul Wahlberg, owner of Alma Nove and Wahlburgers in Hingham, closed his restaurants Friday when the governor closed the roads, but he felt it was important to reopen Saturday afternoon.

“There were a lot people from towns with no power and no lights that were just looking for a place to eat,” he said. “We opened Alma Nove and I literally had to go pick up some of our employees who usually take the T, but I felt we had to be open for people who needed us.”

Wahlberg said that with one restaurant closed and the other doing less business than normal, he did collectively less than what he would do on a normal weekend – but that wasn’t his top priority.

“It’s not about dollars,” he said. “It’s about giving people a place to go. People figured we would not be open, but we felt we had to be there for our customers.

Both Alma Nove and Wahlburgers were back to normal business hours on Sunday and Wahlberg said they did “very well.” Wahlburgers also got a boost on Monday as with so many schools closed traffic was “much stronger” than it would be typically.

Union Oyster House was closed Friday and Saturday, as road and MBTA shutdowns made getting to work difficult for his employees, manager Joe Milano said. Milano said since February is usually a big month in the restaurant industry, losing an entire weekend, especially on a weekend around Valentine’s Day, hurts.

“You don’t make it up. [Customers] don’t come in tomorrow and eat two meals,” Milano said. “You just have to move on.”