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JT’s on The Bay owner retires from beloved Blue Point spot after 16 years 

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It’s been a helluva run for local restauranteur Justin Tempelman.

But Tempelman announced this week he is retiring from JT’s on The Bay in Blue Point after 16 years of running the waterfront restaurant from Blue Point Marina.

The last day of business was this past Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5.

“This place is the heartbeat of the community during the summertime,” Tempelman said “I’ve been blessed.” 

Reflecting on his first days in the seasonal seafood business, Tempelman recalls having “no idea” what he was doing his first summer. 

But with the support of his family, employees, and the community, he began to gain his footing and made a name for himself in the Bayport-Blue Point area.

JT’s On The Bay became the longest-standing restaurant at 1 Curtis Road, which was previously home to The Cull House in 1979, The Anchor Inn, and the Blue Point Oyster Factory. 

In addition to JT’s on The Bay, he launched his sister restaurants: JT’s Farmhouse, which is now under new ownership, and JT’s Café at 4 Montauk Highway in Blue Point. 

Tempelman said most restaurants hope to stay open for at least three to five years, so he’s especially proud of his 16.

“We’ve been through hurricanes down here, economic downturns, 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, Covid…” he said. “I mean I can write a book about this place and all the characters that have come through our doors over the years.” 

He also tipped his hat to the Bayport-Blue Point community for “supporting local like no other.”

Story continues after the photo.

The sun setting on the last day for JT’s On The Bay. Photo by Justin Tempelman.

From the North Shore

Tempelman practically grew up in the restaurant industry, starting out when he was just 14.. 

The soon-to-be 49-year-old said his only job outside of the restaurant business was selling sneakers at Foot Locker.  

He attended Johnson & Wales University and studied hotel restaurant management and culinary arts. 

He dipped his toe in the corporate world for a little bit, but realized it wasn’t for him.  

“I never waivered, I always knew what I wanted to do,” Tempelman said. “My parents were both entrepreneurs…as soon as I had an opportunity to go out on my own I took the bull by the horns at 23 and opened my first restaurant.” 

In 2007, Tempelman was running JT’s Corner Café in his hometown of Nesconset when he received a call from the Svendsen family, who owned the Blue Point Marina for four decades. 

They were looking for a new operator of the waterfront building and envisioned a family establishment in the space. 

“We didn’t know each other, but had a mutual friend,” Tempelman said. “The Svendsen family took a shot on me…I was an unknown here on the South Shore.” 

He took the offer, transformed a completely empty building into his vision, and the rest is history. 

The appeal of JT’s On The Bay was how it stayed true to the traditional, Long Island seafood joint: “old and salty,” Tempelman said. “There are not many places like this one left on Long Island.”

Story continues after the photo.

Justin Tempelman (center) sitting in the JT’s On the Bay chair with his daughter and her friends. (courtesy)

A family spot 

So, what’s next for J.T.?

First, he’s looking forward to spending more time with his family. 

He will continue to own JT’s Café in Blue Point, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. 

Although a bittersweet moment, the memories shared at JT’s on The Bay will live on forever, Tempelman said. Especially one memory.

This is where he and his wife, Michelle, fell in love and later got married. 

JT’s on The Bay is where all three of his children worked — his 17-year-old grew up at the seaside eatery and his 8-year-old daughter “practically ran the place,’ Tempelman said with a smile.

It was the venue for his daughter’s sweet 16 and many other special occasions. 

Tempelman’s parents, Van and Suzanne, worked behind the scenes but played a crucial role in the restaurant’s success, he said.

“Mom runs the office and Dad makes sure we have every single product that we need in this restaurant food-wise,” he said. “Without them behind me, I wouldn’t have been able to do my job.”

In addition, Tempelman has formed a work family of loyal employees, many of which are local Bayport-Blue Point kids who returned to JT’s on The Bay every summer. 

“The number of kids I’ve mentored over the years, some of them are still here,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the people who have come through these doors…without them, this place wouldn’t have been as successful.”

Although he said he’ll miss JT’s on The Bay, all of these moments are the ultimate “prize” for Tempelman.

And he welcomes regulars to come down to JT’s Café to say hi, as this is “not goodbye forever.”

“I appreciate what the neighborhood has done for me and all the support and love,” Tempelman said. “It’s just been an amazing run.”

Top: File photo of JT’s On The Bay owner Justin Tempelman.