The face of Montauk is changing. Last week it was announced that Salivar’s Bar and Grille, a much loved fishermen’s establishment down by the docks, was sold, in a deal brokered by Town and Country Real Estate, for $3.3 million. The new owners are Brian Obergfell and his wife Jo-Ann. Brian is an attorney in New York City.
Salivar’s, as most of us know, is open late for fishermen’s stories, beer, food and entertainment, but it is also open before dawn for when the fishermen go out in the boats. Indeed, it’s the only place in Montauk, besides the 7-Eleven, that is open 24 hours a day in the summertime. Breakfast, for example, is about around the clock. It’s been a legendary hangout in Montauk for about 60 years. But now, as with some of the rest of Montauk, the tide has shifted a little. According to those involved with the deal, the Obergfells wish to keep the restaurant the way it is, and they want to keep the legacy of the restaurant going. Brian Obergfell told me over the telephone, “I’m not 100% sure what is going to happen there. Our preference would be to change as little as possible. We really haven’t made any decisions other than the building needs some work, but there are no plans to redevelop the site at this time.”
This is pleasant news to hear, but it’s important to keep in mind that the Obergfells are not planning on going into the restaurant business themselves, and are currently seeking a tenant. So in terms of whether or not there will be any changes, we really will have to just wait and see. But that’s life.
Literally right down the street, another restaurant, Lenny’s On The Dock, is for sale. Just about any business in Montauk that has survived for more than 10 years ends up becoming legendary. There are countless places there that ooze history and incredible stories in this town: Shagwong’s, Gosman’s, Gurney’s, John’s Pancake House, Liar’s, The West Lake Clam and Chowder House, and many others. But also, slowly, with a quiet steadiness, businesses are trading hands in Montauk for millions of dollars to new owners from New York City not in the fishing business. Ask anyone in Montauk 10 years ago if they thought that The Crow’s Nest would ever change hands, and you would have gotten a look like you were crazy. Ask them if they thought that Andrew Farkas, one of the most powerful men in New York City real estate, would buy the Montauk Yacht Club, and they would have laughed at you. And if you thought the Sunset Saloon would be re-named Navy Beach and be run as a chic club by restaurateurs from New York City, you would have said that’s crazy. But all of these things have happened.
The two most notable changes in Montauk, which are still hard for many locals to accept, include the construction of the 7-Eleven, a faceless chain deli, and the erection of one of the hottest nightclubs in the United States known as the Surf Lodge, formerly the Lake House. When it was the Lake House it made its money catering to Irish kids working as waiters. Today, the Surf Lodge is frequented by Goldman Sachs’ bankers and the hottest women that New York City can produce.
Things have changed, but you know, the heart and soul of Montauk never will.