Rainbow Drive-in second restaurant in Ulster County will close this week – Daily Freeman
PORT EWEN, NY — The Rainbow Drive-In, just across the Rondout Creek Bridge from the Rondout area of Kingston, will close after 21 years in operation.
Owner Chuck Boughton said in a phone interview that he plans to keep the restaurant’s kitchen on until Friday, March 18 at the latest. The restaurant serves an extensive dinner-style menu in a space with a 1950s-style restaurant that even has an old Edsel grill at the counter. It also includes a large ice cream stand, which he said he could keep open for a bit longer.
It is the second restaurant in Ulster County to announce its closure in recent days. Like Kitchenette in High Falls, which announced its closure on Sunday, Boughton blamed the demise of The Rainbow Drive-In on rising labor and supply costs and the lingering fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. .
“Expenses are through the roof from supplies to labor,” Boughton said. “I can’t compete with the corporate chains that provide so much work for people.”
He said that while government officials have pegged inflation at around 8%, he thinks it’s actually more like 15% for the food industry. He said labor costs were rising even before the pandemic due to increases in the minimum wage.
“It’s not viable for me to earn the same kind of life as a few years ago,” Boughton said. “And instead of the current business climate, people won’t have enough money to keep going out and eating.”
He estimates that he would have to increase menu prices by 20% to maintain his results. “I saw this coming six months ago, I had to make the hardest decision of my life,” Boughton said.
And to make matters worse, the century-old Rondout Creek Bridge – the suspension bridge that connects the road on which the restaurant is located, Old Route 9W, to Wurts Street in the Rondout neighborhood of Kingston – has been closed by the Department of Transportation. of New York State in October. 2021 for a two-year, $44.6 million rehabilitation project that will see the span remain closed until the fall of 2023.
Boughton estimates that the closure of the bridge has cut an additional 10 to 15% of its activity. “And that comes on top of everything else,” he said.
He said that even though the restaurant became popular with construction crews carrying out rehabilitation, the writing was on the wall.
“It was a domino effect,” Boughton said. “When you add them all up, I don’t see much light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, at this point, enough is enough. »
He said he weathered the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic without taking advantage of federal aid programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. And he said if ice cream sales had in fact jumped during the pandemic shutdown in the spring of 2020, he had to close the dining room for nine weeks.
“After that it was a catch-up game,” he said.
And Boughton, 64, admitted he was simply exhausted after running a restaurant for 21 years, often putting in 10-12 hour days, seven days a week to maintain the quality and standards he wanted.
“I want to have some quality of life,” he said.
Boughton said he put the business up for sale for a while, but never received anything more than a few nibbles.
Now he’s had even less rest since announcing the Rainbow’s closure, and the restaurant has been overwhelmed with patrons looking to enjoy a final meal there.
When the Rainbow Drive-In closes, it will end Boughton’s long-held dream of owning a restaurant that started as an ice cream stand that grew into a 1950s-themed independent restaurant. even came to host classic car shows every year, he said.
“It’s been very popular and so far very enduring,” he said.
Along with Kitchenette, the Rainbow Drive-In will join the ranks of area dining establishments that have closed this year, including the Kingston location of Mole Mole in the Rondout area, Tony’s Pizzeria in Midtown, Kingston and Grainne and Boitson’s in Uptown.
Boughton said he didn’t have much time to think about what was next. “I’m just going to shut this place down and scale it down,” he said.
He said he might take a month off and then go from there, hinting he had a commercial driver’s license and construction experience.
But right now he said he’s a really blessed person.
“I’m forever grateful for the support we’ve received over the years from our customer base and employees who held on until the end,” Boughton said.