A quarter-century after first opening in Patchogue, a pioneer of Main Street’s resurgence is passing the baton to a younger generation.
The BrickHouse Brewery and Restaurant — housed inside Patchogue’s oldest commercial building — is being taken over by a younger group of South Shore restauranteurs.
Tom Keegan, one of BrickHouse’s original founders said at a ceremonious transition of management on Wednesday at the BrickHouse that such a shift had been his plan for years.
“I said that for our 25th anniversary, I’m going to find the new generation to do this,” said Keegan, an attorney still practicing law. “That was in the middle of the pandemic and I missed it by a year. Monday was our 26th anniversary.”
Keegan and the other member of the BrickHouse ownership team — George Hoag, Jim McPeak and Bob Walch — have a deal in place for thirty-somethings Dave Prunier, Stephen Rizzo, McPeak’s son James and chef Francis Derby to take over.
Rizzo, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, opened Sayville’s Off the Block Kitchen and Meats in 2015. McPeak is a partner of Great South Bar and Sayville Athletic Club.
The incoming ownership team is operating BrickHouse under a management agreement while they await final approvals on the sale.
At Wednesday’s event, the two generations of owners crowded the brewery’s stage and together sang two songs regaling the tale of founding the brewery and saying goodbye.
After the performance, the soon-to-be-owners bustled about the restaurant on their first night at the helm, mingling with patrons and introducing them to some new menu offerings.
“I’ve been a friend of Tom Keegan’s for a little over a decade, he’s been my laywer for everything,” Prunier said. “The stars aligned, and we’re hear today. I’m just really excited to be a part of this team.
“We’re really excited for a new beginning, a new chapter of the BrickHouse,” he added.
Small changes over a long time
Prunier said the spread laid out for the evening’s guests was “a sneak peak for what’s in store,” once the new team settles in.
Among the dishes was a tuna tartar with with cucumbers and spicy aioli, garnished with bronze fennel and served with chips. Duck tacos in General Tso’s sauce, garnished with Portuguese kale and Vietnamese cilantro were also served, as well popovers with a beet yogurt filling, topped with honey and almond crumbles.
Chef Derby’s kitchen boasts a frequently visited countertop garden of fresh herbs. He prides himself on using fresh ingredients from two local farms near his hometown of Bellport: Early Girl Farm and The H.O.G. Farm.
Rizzo joined Derby in the kitchen, where he prepared a mammoth-sized platter of a 60-day dry aged bone-in shell steak. He said he “cooked them to a perfect medium rare, sliced them up with some bone marrow on the side, and we made a nice farm fresh gremolata that has a chimichurri paste along with it for a little spice, a little acidity.”
Rizzo said BrickHouse provides him a chance to take his passion out into a larger and more traditional restaurant setting.
“I’m just trying to bring the love to Patchogue, trying to revitalize this place,” he said. “This place is a historic building, and all we’re trying to do is make a statement of farm fresh and staying local.”
While Derby and the restaurant partners have new menu items and a vision before them, the changes in the kitchen will be a slow and steady process.
“As it stands right now, we’re going to run the BrickHouse as is, we’re going to play around with the menu as we get our feet under us,” he said. “We just want the transition to be kind of natural and organic.”
“The menu’s not going out the window,” he added. “If you went to sleep for the next year and a half, you might come back to a totally different menu. But we’re going to take that step by step.”
26 years and two days ago
The BrickHouse’s origins stretch far south of Patchogue. When Keegan and a dozen or so friends took a trip to New Orleans, they encountered the Crescent City Brewhouse, which inspired what would become a symbol of their legacy in the Patchogue community.
“We went to lunch around 10 o’clock in the morning, had half a dozen beers by noontime,” Keegan said. “And by 3 o’clock we got out a piece of paper and wrote out a business plan. We came back and said ‘We’re going to buy the old Shands building and make it a brewery.'”
The existing owners reflected on their contributions to what’s become a vibrant downtown.
“If you look back, you’ll find this and the theater got Patchogue back on its feet,” Walch said. “We brought it back.”
Now, the brewery’s new partners, hope to preserve BrickHouse’s spirit as a community stimulant.
“I love Patchogue and we have a chance to do something really important for Patchogue here,” James McPeak said. “We can create a community center for everybody to come and gather and eat good food from local farms, and meet nice people.”