Longtime Oak Bluffs restaurant Seasons to close Sunday

Seasons Restaurant and Pub in Oak Bluffs, a year-round Circuit Avenue mainstay for more than two decades, will close for good on Sunday, February 3, the owners announced this week.

“It has been something that we wanted to do for a number of years,” said Robert Murphy of Oak Bluffs, co-owner along with Jim Ryan of Osterville.

Mr. Ryan is owner of the Game Room chain, one unit of which shares the building that now houses Season’s. He spends his time in Florida in the winter.

“Neither one of us wants to go through another season,” Mr. Murphy said. “We were going to do it [close], and going to do it, and the best way to do it is just do it. So we said we will close it, put it up for sale or lease, and see where it goes.”

Mr. Murphy, owner of Towne and Country Realty in Oak Bluffs, said that he, Mr. Ryan, and Doug Abdelnour bought the business and building 27 years ago in foreclosure as an investment in 1986. Later, the men bought out Mr. Abdelnour’s interest.

The location has a storied history of owners and occupants. In the recent past it was known as the Boston House. It became Checkers for one year after the sale and the three partners transformed it into the Atlantic Connection and the other side Seasons Restaurant.

Mr. Murphy said he and Mr. Ryan began phasing out the business about five years ago when they closed the Atlantic Connection, in its time a popular band venue where Islanders gathered to dance and party. The building has been for lease or sale for several years, he said. Last year, the men decided to close the restaurant at the end of the year but hesitated to set a final date when it appeared they might lease it to someone. When that fell through, the closing date was set, he said.

“I have tremendous memories of the place,” Mr. Murphy said. “It’s been fun, but it really ties you down. There’s no break. What I will miss are the customers. You meet such a cross-section of people.”

He said the timing is right and will allow a new business to prepare for the summer and employees to find summer employment. Approximately 20 employees, most of them part-time, will lose their jobs.

A sign posted near the employee time clock this week announced the news. “This is not an easy decision but one that has been contemplated for some time,” read the note, signed by the owners.

“It’s bittersweet,” Seasons general manager Mike Santoro told The Times in a telephone call Tuesday evening. “I have a lot of great memories.”

Mr. Santoro’s Island history is closely linked to the restaurant. He arrived in February 1993 when he was hired to manage the restaurant and Atlantic Connection nightclub.

Over the years, Mr. Santoro took an active interest in the town’s economic health. He was elected to the board of selectmen in April 2011.

Mr. Santoro said the business climate has changed over the years since he arrived. The economy and increased competition as more restaurants opened while costs continue to rise has changed the playing field, he said.

He said the challenge is to restrain increases in menu prices at the same time that taxes, sewer bills and the cost of goods, like food and liquor, rise. “When I started a case of Budweiser was $14, $15,” he said. “Now it’s $21.”

He said the Island economy has been slow. More families are purchasing food at the market in the summer rather than eating out.

Mr. Santoro said for now he will have more time to focus on The Lookout Tavern, a seasonal restaurant that overlooks the Oak Bluffs Steamship terminal. He has a partnership interest with Mr. Ryan and Mr. Murphy in the Lookout, and he will continue to participate in the Oak Bluffs Association.

“I think the biggest thing I am going to miss are the employees and the year-round clientele,” Mr. Santoro said.