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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Swooner restaurant gone in one season

    Three area restaurants have closed in recent days, including upscale Swooner, which this spring took over the building that had long been the home of the iconic Skipper’s Dock restaurant in Stonington Borough.

    Jake’s Wayback Burgers on Route 27 in Mystic and the Mermaid Cafe along the Pawcatuck River on Margin Street in Westerly also have closed.

    Rumors had swirled in recent days that Swooner was closing, and the restaurant posted on its Facebook page on Tuesday that it was closed for the season, even though the original plan was for it to be a year-round restaurant.

    This week, though, Swooner employees began telling residents and other borough restaurants that they were out of work. On Wednesday afternoon, Bill Griffin, who owns the building and is an investor in the restaurant, confirmed that it had closed for good.

    As for what led to the closure, Griffin referred that question to Swooner operator Jeff Gimmel, who did not immediately return a phone call.

    Griffin said he will be looking for a new operator, and several people have expressed interest. He said the newly renovated restaurant is a turn-key operation.

    Skipper’s Dock, which was known as much for its spectacular views of Stonington Harbor as its French-inspired seafood menu, first opened in 1986. Its owners, longtime and popular local restaurateur Ainslie Turner and her son, Alex, learned in 2013 that their lease would not be renewed. Ainslie had run Skipper’s from 1986 to 1990 and from 2000 to 2013.

    Gimmel has run the award-winning Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson, N.Y., since 2004. Regular visitors to the borough, he and his wife learned in January of 2013 that the Skipper’s Dock space soon would be available.

    After Skipper’s closed in October of 2013, extensive renovations were done to the building to prepare for the opening of Swooner. These included installation of a new kitchen, appliances, bathrooms, equipment and a bar top as well as cosmetic improvements and new landscaping.

    But since Swooner opened in May, social media reviews of the restaurant have been mixed and, in some cases, critical — especially with regards to its service.

    Still, the restaurant had its fans. “Why are you closing? Love Swooner,” one patron posted on the Swooner Facebook page on Tuesday.

    When Jake’s Wayback Burgers opened in front of the Hampton Inn & Suites in 2010, it became one of the chain’s first franchise locations outside Delaware, where it was founded. In addition to its burgers, it was known for its wide variety of milkshakes.

    The company, which now is based in Cheshire, did not return a phone call about the closing. The Mystic location has been removed from the franchise listing on the company’s website.

    Jake’s faced nearby competition from Five Guys, McDonald’s and Friendly’s. The nearest Jake’s is now the one in Old Saybrook.

    The Mermaid announced Tuesday on Facebook that it was closing.

    “The Mermaid Cafe has closed permanently. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your loyal support,” said the posting from Carolyn Burkhardt, the manager.

    The restaurant served breakfast and lunch all week and dinners on Friday and Saturday nights, when it was BYOB. It was popular with boaters who pulled into Viking Marina and was known for its locally sourced seafood.


    Twitter: @joewojtas

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