When Hurricane Irene battered the East Coast this weekend, downing trees, flooding streets and leaving millions without power, few were thinking that it was an ideal time to hold a grand opening for a new business.
But one place in Syosset, coincidentally named Hurricane Grill & Wings, had planned to open in the midst of the storm. Surprisingly, the owner, Bob Engel, didn’t see any problem with the timing.
“It was very coincidental,” said Engel. ” But it was the best PR we could have received.”
The Ft. Pierce, Fla.-based franchise restaurant chain founded in 1996 was set to open the doors at its Jericho Turnpike location to become the third Hurricane Grill on Long Island, but there was one problem: the lights went out Sunday
Engel said he closed the restaurant because he “didn’t want to put the staff in harms way.”
A quick thinker, Engel got hold of refrigerator truck and stocked all the food into it, ensuring that it would be ready as soon as the power came back on. When the power was out through Monday morning, Bob had to send his team home once again.
“We had to send our staff home after getting word from LIPA that it could take from two to five days to restore power,” said Engel, although a few employees stayed behind to help. ” We were scrambling to get generators working.”
It wasn’t until around 5 p.m. Monday that the power finally came back on. They wasted no time.
“We were finally able to open around 6 p.m.,” said Engel. And Hurricane Grill & Wings had quite the opening. “The storm sure blew in a lot of people, we had over 300 customers in only three hours.”
“We were originally trying to open just to give people a break to come in and get a beer, we weren’t even planning on serving food. But once we got power, the restaurant was full from the moment we opened until close,” said Daniel Steele, director for the tri-state area.” There was even a 30 minute wait most of the night.”
“People were everywhere. The line was out the door,” said Julia Darney, Hurricane Grill & Wings traveling lead trainer from Boca Raton, Fla. “In a short amount of time, we did what some restaurants do in one day.”
Steele said the busy opening night can be attributed partly to the black outs. “With the power outages across the Island, people were trying to finish eating before it got dark,” Steele said. “Everyone was eating so quickly.”
Another reason for Monday night’s intense crowd, Hurricane Grill & Wings had just partnered with neighboring videogame shop, Game Stop, for a tournament Monday night coinciding with Game Stop’s midnight release of Madden NFL 2012.
The tournament drew in over 60 players who battled it out on two flat screen televisions. In the end, David, 17, of Syosset, took home the grand prize, a copy of the new game.
As for the rest of the week, Dean George, Hurricane Grill &Wings partner, said: “I think people are getting back on their feet. We’re officially opened and we are letting everyone know it.”