Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale closing New Haven location

Brian Faye, left, and Art Linares, owners of Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale on Long Wharf Drive in New Haven in November 2012.

NEW HAVEN — Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale — one of Connecticut’s most iconic seafood places — is closing its New Haven location.

News of the closing of the Long Wharf Drive location, which is scheduled for Oct. 18, was posted Wednesday morning on the Facebook page and website of the business. Lenny & Joe’s also has a locations in Westbrook and Madison.

“For the past 8 years we have proudly served the New Haven area,” a statement about the closing said in part. “The decision to close our New Haven operation has been a difficult one. Unfortunately, COVID 19 has greatly changed the restaurant environment.”

The statement also cited an expiring lease at the New Haven building as a reason for the closing.

“We have worked very hard for the past 8 months to try and keep the business going,” the statement said in part. “We ultimately realized that the effects of the virus won’t soon go away, and have rippled through our community in ways that deeply affected the Long Wharf business.”

The restaurant’s location at 501 Long Wharf Drive, with an outdoor patio overlooking New Haven Harbor, has been an attraction for decades. Workers from companies located in the adjacent Long Wharf Maritime Center as well as tourists were drawn to the spot, which was once home to the Rusty Scupper, than Leon’s restaurant, before it became Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale.

Brian Faye and Art Linares were the majority partners who opened the licensed location in 2012.

“It’s a perfect location,” Faye, the operating partner, said of the waterfront spot to the New Haven Register when the Long Wharf Drive location opened. “I think it’s one of the best locations in Connecticut.”

Faye was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday’s closing announcement.

The New Haven location is licensed with an agreement with brothers Lenny and Joe Goldberg, who opened the original restaurant on Route 1 in Madison in 1979, then opened a second Fish Tale on Route 1 in Westbrook in 1986.

Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said he’s hearing about restaurant closings around the state on daily basis.

“Being in the restaurant business is difficult in normal times,” Dolch said. “But now I lose sleep at night over the pace at which this is happening.”

Many restaurants will benefit from Connecticut’s pandemic restrictions easing to Phase 3 on Thursday, he said. The Phase 3 rules allow restaurants to serve a larger percentage of indoor customers.

“Will every restaurant get there?” Dolch said. “No, because every situation is different, every space is different. But these businesses are investing to keep people safe.”

Connecticut restaurant owners Dolch has talked to typically are spending $4,000 to $10,000 implementing safety measures designed to protect patrons against the coronavirus.

“It’s all about weathering the storm any way they can,” he said. “You have to invest and adapt in order to keep your brand going. Going forward, I thinks those who do invest will see real dividends because people’s safety concerns aren’t going away; even after a vaccine is found, there will be at least two or three years where people still won’t feel completely comfortable.”

There are small signs that people are beginning to warm to the idea of indoor dining, according to Dolch.

“Companies haven’t been booking holiday parties and we don’t expect them to this year,” he said. “But little by little our members are starting to get calls from individuals about the availability for booking small family holiday dinners and things like (wedding) rehearsal dinners.”

Dolch is trying to convince Connecticut officials to use some of the $1.4 billion the state received from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help restaurants pay for protective equipment and winterize outside restaurant spaces so they can take advantage of the increased indoor seating capacity under Phase 3.

“It would be a really big step in the right direction,” Dolch said.

Washington, D.C., he said, already has implemented a grant program to help restaurants pay for winterizing outdoor spaces, even though that city received no CARES Act money.

Connecticut Media Group