A friendship cultivated over 13 years of pouring beers and downing snacks in Blue Point has just resulted in a partnership that will see the recently closed Grey Horse Tavern re-open as JT’s Farmhouse in Bayport.
Blue Point Brewing Co. co-founder Peter Cotter and local restaurateur Justin Tempelman — owner of JT’s on the Bay and JT’s Café — are teaming up on the project.
The idea is turn the landmark building, which is believed to have operated continually as an inn, watering hole and restaurant since it was built in 1868, into a community gathering spot for families, date nights, and your basic camaraderie. They hope to open this fall.
Tempelman, whose two restaurants are immensely popular, will be in charge of the food and service, with Cotter’s role being to hand select the beer and music offerings.
“There was a music scene here [at the Grey Horse] that was unrivaled,” said Tempelman.
Former owners Linda Ringhouse and Irene Dougal ran the farm-to-table Grey Horse Tavern for 11 years before announcing its sudden and imminent closure in May.
“What those two girls created here was pure magic,” said Cotter, of Patchogue, who co-founded Blue Point Brewery in 1998. “I’m humbled and honored to continue some of that tradition.”
The two got the keys to the building Thursday night.
“This is for the neighborhood,” said Tempelman, who lives in Blue Point.
The two spoke with Greater Long Island Friday from inside the historic barroom in the building’s main floor.
Now, they get to work. The plan is to retain the charm of the bar area, where the musicians perform, while giving the rest of the building and property an aesthetic facelift.
“We want to rehab the building and the property, give it some love,” said Tempelman, who has run JT’s on the Bay for 13 years. “The inside we want to keep the structural integrity, and we love the colors and the architecture of the inside; it really just speaks for itself.”
He said menu will be “seasonal American.”
“I like to change my menu four times a year with the seasons,” he said, “while using local products and farms, when I can, but not full blown farm to table; that’s not for everybody.
“And I want this to be for everybody,” he continued. “I want to be who I am, and keep it simple, keep it fresh, and always changing, trying to do things better. I really just love this place.”
JT’s Farmhouse will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week, while opening up the property’s pergola-covered patio for Sunday brunches and private events.
The two first discussed the ideas of taking over the building after Cotter enjoyed a couple beers one random and rainy Tuesday night last month at JT’s on the Bay.
“I stopped in for a pint,” said Cotter, “then one beer turned into two, then later I was rushing out to the car and heard, ‘Yo, Pedro!’ Then [Tempelman] came up to the car.
“Did you hear about the Grey Horse?” Tempelman asked Cotter. “Would you be interested?”
“Right then, it was like, Ding! Ding!” Cotter said on Friday.
After over a decade of dining in his restaurants — between the food and the friendly service — and selling beers to JT’s, Cotter said Tempelman is the only person he’d want to partner with on such a venture.
“I could never do it myself,” he laughed. “I’d be out of business in a month.”
So Long Island’s godfather of craft beer will now be responsible for the brews at JT’s Farmhouse. They’ll be calling the tap line selections “Pedro’s picks.”
The other priority is keeping the music scene going, just like at Grey Horse, a move Cotter called “a touch of Grey.”
Being locals, the two felt it was important to keep the historic building in operation.
“I live in this neighborhood,” said Tempelman. “I drive my kids to school. I pass here 45 times a week and I always wanted to be here. I’m super prideful that I get to carry the torch and continue what the ladies established here, as far as the bar, tavern and music scene.”
“There was no convincing for me,” said Cotter. “Just the vibe of this place … That’s where I saw the planets aligning.”
Check back for an historical piece dedicated entirely to the 1868 building at 291 Bayport Avenue, fronting Railroad Street. For decades it had been run as the Bayport House.
Also check back for a sneak peek of the refinished JT’s Farmhouse.
Top: Justin Tempelman and Peter Cotter at the bar in Bayport Friday. (Credit: Michael White)
More: The Beer That Made Patchogue Famous (NYT, 2001)