Famed Hamptons steakhouse The Palm lays off staff on New Year’s Day

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By Dan Sears

The iconic Palm steakhouse in East Hampton — frequented by celebs like Jon Bon Jovi, Jerry Seinfeld and Gwyneth Paltrow — said it will lay off most of its staff in a surprise New Year’s Day announcement that left stunned workers in tears, Side Dish has learned

More than three dozen employees got the bad news at the hastily arranged meeting – one day after the restaurant was packed for New Year’s Eve,  lawyer Edmond Chakmakian told Side Dish. 

“They obviously knew at Christmas they would be closing. They could have given people 10-days notice but they would have faced an exodus. So they used them for the holiday season and tossed them aside. It’s not cool,” said Chakmakian, who was contacted by upset workers about possible legal action. 

The 39 staffers were summoned to the eatery on New Year’s Day and handed letters signed by Scott Crain, the Senior Vice President and COO of The Palm, which is part of Texas billionaire Tillman Fertitta’s restaurant group Landry’s.

The Palm is part of Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta’s restaurant group Landry’s. REUTERS

“As you are aware, we will be operating the restaurant on a reduced menu and schedule at The Palm at Huntting Inn location effective today, so we can begin construction work on the kitchen,” according to the letter obtained by Side Dish.

“Although we hoped to remain open for regular operations during the renovation, we have determined that doing so may delay construction such that it could extend into our busy season. Therefore, we believe that this partial closure is the best decision to permit construction to be completed promptly and return employees to work.” 

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The restaurant, which has been operating at the landmark Huntting Inn since 1980, plans an extensive $5 million renovation that will shutter the steakhouse until March 15, a spokesman for the company told Side Dish.

At the New Year’s Day meeting, staff were advised to seek unemployment insurance and informed that staff who return would be eligible for a $500 bonus.

The restaurant, which has been operating at the landmark Huntting Inn since 1980, plans an extensive $5 million renovation. Eric Myer

 “People were crying at the meeting. They have mortgages and kids. What are they supposed to do? It’s the middle of winter. East Hampton is not exactly hopping. In January, after the holidays, it’s a ghost town out there,” Chakmakian said.

The Palm plans to re-open its bar with a limited menu this weekend, the company’s rep said.

A skeleton crew of around 10 lucky employees will be kept on along with the managers, the spokesperson added. 

The Palm spokesperson said employees who return in March will receive their hourly back pay wages that they would have earned in January and February. 

Actors Dax Shepard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jason Bateman and producer Judd Apatow at the Palm in Beverly Hills in 2015. Getty Images for Baby Buggy

 “We’re doing our best. That’s all I really know right now,” said The Palm’s general manager Chris Gilman, who declined to comment further. 

By all accounts, The Huntting Inn at 94 Main Street is in serious need of repair. The building dates to 1699. 

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The 30-room hotel was originally built as a home for the Rev. Nathaniel Huntting and his family.

The Palm Restaurant Group bought it in 1980. But by 2020, the upscale steakhouse chain was in bankruptcy following a dispute between family members of the original owners. 

Fertitta, CEO of Landry’s — which also owns Del Frisco’s, Morton’s and Mastro’s — bought the Palm chain out of bankruptcy for around $45 million, just days before the pandemic shut down much of the nation in March 2020. 

Jerry Seinfeld at the Palm in Beverly Hills in 2016. Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Launched by an Italian-American family in New York in 1926, The Palm’s Beverly Hills outpost – where stars went to “see and be seen” by Hollywood’s power brokers – closed for good in October. 

Bruce Bozzi, a fourth-generation member of the family that founded The Palm — known for his fun “Table for Two” podcasts and for his marriage to CAA star agent Bryan Lourd  — told the Hollywood Reporter that Landry’s “didn’t understand the culture of The Palm, that the recipes they were changing go back longer than they were alive, that the portions they were making smaller, like the onion rings, were that way for a reason: to impart a feeling of generosity.” 

Tim Whitlock, COO of The Palm Restaurants, responded to the outlet that they never changed recipes or portion size. 

“The economy, COVID and competition impacted the Palm Beverly Hills. No other Palm restaurants have been closed since we rescued the iconic brand back in 2020,” he told THR.

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Cantiere’s Pugliese burger. Cantiere Hambirreria.

We hear…that while Americans are known for creating classic takes on Italian ‘red sauce’ joints distinct from their overseas originals, now Italians have exported their own twist on American hamburgers.

“Cantiere Hambirreria,” an Italian burger eatery in Lecce and Milan, now has an outpost in Soho. Hambierreria is a riff on the words “hamburgheria” and “birreria” and this low key spot for burgers and beers is a fun spot to meet friends.  (We visited on a night when a group of motorcycle lovers met for a burger-beer-mingle.)

Cantiere opened an outpost in Soho. Cantiere Hambirreria

Think fresh bread, more than 20 burger options, betoniera — homemade Altamura bread bowls filled with cheese fondue — and apiuttle, a savory fried dough that is typical in Puglia. 

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