NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Old Man Rafferty’s, a downtown restaurant that has served savory French onion soup and overstuffed reubens to generations of theatergoers, Rutgers students and Johnson & Johnson’s workers, has closed its doors.
Owner Mark Jakuboski said the landmark restaurant on Albany Street, like many other eateries and small businesses in New Brunswick and beyond, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said his restaurant was operating at a more than 90% loss in recent weeks as patrons no longer want to eat outside. Others seemed apprehensive to eat inside, although the restaurant was strickly adhering to COVID-19 safety protocol such as keeping tables at least six feet apart and limiting dining to eight per table.
Although the restaurant’s awning playfully declared it was “Established Not Too Long Ago,” the truth is Jakuboski opened it in 1984. That fact made it all the more difficult to close the doors on Tuesday and put 38 employees on furlough.
“We did have a good summer and I did sock a little bit away because I kind of knew this was coming,” Jakuboski said. “And it's economic sense not to lose so much money during the winter every week, to hunker down and just kind of wait it out until spring hits.”
He said he hopes to re-open in time for Valentine’s Day or Saint Patrick’s Day. By then, the restaurant might have a different look.
Jakuboski said he is looking to purchase new tables and chairs for the outdoor terrace – a space made available to him by his landlord, Johnson & Johnson.
“We’re going to put permanent awnings over the courtyard on the side and nice roll-out awnings in the front so they will only be covering the sidewalk,” he said. “So, even if we have a little bit of a drizzle or some inclement, hot weather in the summertime, it will still be shaded.”
He said he will also be focusing on improving the outdoor area of his Hillsborough location, too.
“I’ll spend the next two months with my saved money and looking forward to firing back up,” Jakuboski said.
Since the pandemic hit in March, Fatto Americano on George Street and the Golden Rail on Easton Avenue – to name two – have closed their doors.
The “Rally Together” program has been launched to give those who shop and dine downtown an opportunity to support these businesses. Money raised will be used as grants for business and restaurant owners. All City Center district small businesses, retail, services and restaurants are eligible to apply.
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