Abandoned for decades, a building finds new life on Maple Avenue


Note: This story was published in June 2016.

It’s been quite a few years since the big building at the southern end of Maple Avenue in Bay Shore was occupied.

How long, exactly?

Let’s just say the most recent tenant there was Beefsteak Charlie’s.

Anyone born after 1985 probably has no idea what that is.

For those who remember the old Beefsteak Charlie’s — a restaurant chain that dwindled away during the 1990s —the large fireplaces that bookended the eastern and western side of the building remain fully intact in what’s now the new location of The LakeHouse.

“Everyone keeps talking about the view, and I’m just thinking, everyone’s going to want to sit around these fireplaces,” said Eileen Connors, who opened the doors to the new LakeHouse on Saturday, May 21, along with her husband, Matthew, and longtime LakeHouse manager Jay Gut of East Islip.

The previous LakeHouse location at 240 West Main Street in Bay Shore was closed after Easter.

The Connors, who live in Bay Shore, moved from Brooklyn in 2006 to open the The LakeHouse, with Eileen Connors running the front of the house.

Matthew Connors had made a name for himself in Manhattan, where he last ran the popular farm-to-table restaurant Veritas in the Flatiron District.

Their Bay Shore restaurant was an immediate hit.

“We had outgrown the place [on West Main Street] probably not too long after we opened it,” Matthew Connors said. “Honestly, we were turning away too much business. We had been looking for a second place but nothing was quite right. Either it was too small or wasn’t on the waterfront.”

“And then this place came up,” he continued. “It was bigger than we had in mind but it solved a lot of problems that we had, with private dining rooms and a bar area. We’re really looking at this as an expansion or a relocation, rather than a new restaurant.”

Aside from three large dining rooms and barroom, the new LakeHouse also features a private conference room, massive deck with a fire pit (a key feature at the first location), and eight nicely sized slips for boat-up dining.

The Connors and Gut took possession of the new building this past fall and began the renovations immediately.

After closing on West Main Street in March, they set out working on Maple Avenue, along with Gut’s fiancé, Millicent Gerlak, almost daily.

During interviews with in April, Gerlak said she was already booking parties into October.

“People come in almost every day,” she said.

“And we haven’t even been open yet,” Gut added.

Matthew Connors said the experience at the new LakeHouse will still be French American fine dining, though the barroom will allow for a more casual option with a bar menu. The LakeHouse will still be open year-round, with Sunday brunch, as well as a lunch menu after the first month.

Lunches will start mid-June.

The staff from West Main Street has remained intact, though the partners had to expand the roster from about 10 to 15 people, to closer to 40.

The partners said the building was empty for 23 years before the owners began prepping it last year to be occupied once again.

“We weren’t ready 5, 10 years ago,” Eileen Connors said. “Honestly, we weren’t ready two years ago.

“I think the building was waiting for us.”