Zack's Bar and Grille to close at end of 2020
Stonington — Zack's Bar and Grille is closing at the end of business on Dec. 31, the restaurant announced Monday "with mixed emotions" on Facebook, as the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the retirement plans of owners Lynn and Zack Tsagarakis.
"When you are young, you have plenty of time to recover from the down times. When you are older you don't have that luxury," they wrote. "I think we will be well into 2021 (or longer) before the recovery process begins, which would take us past our target date for riding off into the sunset. Thus the decision to pull the plug a little early."
Zack's has been open since 2004, but the couple had an established career in the restaurant industry since well before then.
Lynn and Zack Tsagarakis met in the 1970s working at Steak Loft, he as a bartender and she as a cocktail waitress. Zack then ran the Bootlegger in Groton, and then managed Steak Loft owner Jon Kodama's Newport restaurant Dave & Eddie's, while Lynn worked for USAir.
The couple ran The Fisherman Restaurant in Noank from 1990 to 2002, then took a year and a half off. Their son was in high school at the time, and Zack started coaching lacrosse at Stonington High School. Zack also ran the Seahorse in Noank from 2011 through 2019.
He said that while high-end places have opened up in the area over the years and dining habits have changed, people still want good value for their dollar and Zack's has stayed the same.
"We cater to what our customers like, and it's not fancy," he said. "What you see is what you get. It's unpretentious."
When the Tsagarakises decided not to renew their lease at the Seahorse, their plan was to run Zack's until September 2021. At that point, Lynn would have hit her "magic number" for the age at which she wanted to retire, 70, and the liquor license was expiring in September.
This past spring, ahead of the Phase 1 reopening that allowed outdoor dining, they converted their personal patio to serve customers. They live upstairs from the restaurant at 201 N. Main St.
To prepare for reopening, they installed new fencing, gates and lighting; printed paper menus; acquired hand sanitizer, gloves and masks; and brought back staff, after getting a Paycheck Protection Program loan.
Zack said Wednesday that with the coronavirus, "We would've had to really struggle to make ends meet through the winter of 2021, and then spent the majority of the summer of 2021 paying back what we went into the hole for." Lynn said if they were younger, they "would see this through in a heartbeat," but it's too close to retirement.
"All we need is a nice library like we have here and a patch of sand for my beach chair," she said. "We don't require much."
Asked about retirement plans, Zack said they've made no plans past Dec. 31, that they "want to get to the end of the year as unscathed as we possibly can, and then we will make a decision sometime after that." And he said they like where they live.
Lynn said what has stuck out to her over the years is the people, and seeing customers' families evolve and kids grow up.
The couple got an outpouring of kind words on Facebook, with sad but supportive customers wishing them the best in their retirement, saying they will miss the owners, and thanking Zack and Lynn for all they have done for the community.
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