Fate of Shennecossett's Par 4 Restaurant uncertain

Beth Ganacoplos chats with Savanah Geer as Richard Geer signs a petition protesting the situation at the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton Monday, June 19, 2017. The town council in Groton has decided not to renew the lease for the restaurant and loyal customers are circulating a petition opposing the decision and planning to attend a town council meeting Tuesday to voice their protest. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Beth Ganacoplos chats with Savanah Geer as Richard Geer signs a petition protesting the situation at the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton Monday, June 19, 2017. The town council in Groton has decided not to renew the lease for the restaurant and loyal customers are circulating a petition opposing the decision and planning to attend a town council meeting Tuesday to voice their protest. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Groton — Fans of the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Course are rallying to save it.

By Monday afternoon, more than 400 of them had signed petitions calling for the Town Council “to take immediate action” to prevent the restaurant from closing at the end of the month. Negotiations between the town and the Par 4 owners, Peter Ganacoplos and Tony Christina, stalled a week ago.

“After 30 years of service at Shennecossett, the town has decided not to renew the Par 4 lease,” read a notice on the restaurant’s door Monday. “Consequently, the Par 4 will close July 1. … If you enjoy the Par 4, let your Town Council know.”

For many, the impasse in negotiations is personal.

“I guarantee you I’ll never come here again if somebody else opens a restaurant. I don’t care how good it is,” said Wally Post, a town resident who was helping gather signatures Monday inside the restaurant. “I’ll never set foot in this building again.”

Kris Meany, another local, said she helped organize a baby shower at the restaurant that’s scheduled for July 2.

“What are we supposed to do? What are the golfers supposed to do?” she said. “I don’t understand it. It’s a neighborhood restaurant, a “Cheers”-type bar. From what I understand, the owners weren’t given a chance.”

Wedding receptions, high school reunions and fundraising events are regularly held at the restaurant.

Mayor Bruce Flax, a town council member, acknowledged in a Facebook post that the lease negotiations, ongoing for months, “ended somewhat prematurely” last week, with emotions “running high.”

The council, he wrote, offered to extend the Par 4 owners’ lease until the end of the year “or some other mutually agreeable time frame” while the town issued a request for proposals for concession/restaurant services at the golf course beginning in January 2018. Council members, Flax added, were interested in awarding a new five-year lease.

“We strongly suggested that Par 4 submit a bid,” Flax said Monday. “We just don’t know if they’re the gold standard. Maybe they are. But it’s a municipally owned golf course and we owe it to taxpayers to make sure we’re getting everything we can out there.”

The council has scheduled a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting at 6:30 Tuesday night to discuss the matter. A special meeting of the Town Council will follow at 7:30. Flax said public comment on the Par 4 lease will be entertained.

“We were never given any indication that the lease wasn’t going to be renewed,” Edward Moukawsher, a Groton attorney representing the Par 4 owners, said Monday. “Then, out of nowhere the council says, ‘We want bids and you’re welcome to bid.’ … I couldn’t believe that after we laid our cards on the table, they said you can stay for six months and bid if you want. With 17 days left in the lease, they say they’re not renewing it.”

Moukawsher questioned whether the town had negotiated “in good faith.”

Todd Goodhue, the golf pro at Shennecossett, said being without a restaurant could be devastating for the course.

“The food-and-beverage operation is critical to the golf operation,” he said. “If there’s any interruption, it really can be catastrophic for the course’s bottom line. If (Par 4) closes July 1, it’s going to be months before we get another restaurant here. We could lose significant business.”

Several upcoming events have been scheduled, including the 35th Connecticut Senior Open, which is scheduled to be played at Shennecossett for the 20th consecutive year, July 17-18.

“I hope cooler heads prevail and we’re able to continue our partnership with Par 4,” Goodhue said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Customers gather at the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton Monday, June 19, 2017. The town council in Groton has decided not to renew the lease for the restaurant and loyal customers are circulating a petition opposing the decision and planning to attend a town council meeting Tuesday to voice their protest. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Customers gather at the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton Monday, June 19, 2017. The town council in Groton has decided not to renew the lease for the restaurant and loyal customers are circulating a petition opposing the decision and planning to attend a town council meeting Tuesday to voice their protest. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A printout explains the situation to customers arriving at the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton Monday, June 19, 2017. The town council in Groton has decided not to renew the lease for the restaurant and loyal customers are circulating a petition opposing the decision and planning to attend a town council meeting Tuesday to voice their protest. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A printout explains the situation to customers arriving at the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton Monday, June 19, 2017. The town council in Groton has decided not to renew the lease for the restaurant and loyal customers are circulating a petition opposing the decision and planning to attend a town council meeting Tuesday to voice their protest. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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