By Joe Anuta
Strawberry’s Sports Grill in Douglaston opened its doors for the last time Sunday, when a group of loyal customers gathered to watch the New York Jets and New York Yankees games, ordered pizza to compensate for the empty kitchen and did their part to deplete the eatery’s remaining stockpiles of alcohol.
The closure of Strawberry’s was just the latest in a string of failed operations at 42-15 235th St., which has hosted numerous establishments over the last few decades.
On Sunday, there was no shortage of theories as to what went wrong this time at the restaurant first opened in August 2010 by former professional baseball player Darryl Strawberry.
The slightly raucous atmosphere inside the bar had a wistful edge, like the tavern was hosting its own wake. Employees of the now-defunct pub drank together in a corner booth, while locals lamented the loss of yet another watering hole just off the Douglaston Long Island Rail Road stop.
“It won’t be the same,” said Andy McAdam, who was there with his wife and grown daughters.
The bar played a crucial role at the end of 235th Street, functioning as both a highly rated restaurant and a down-to-earth location where neighbors could catch their hometown team.
“Everyone here is a Mets or Jets fan,” McAdam said, which made it nice since not only was Darryl Strawberry a former New York Met, but his old teammates would also stop by for a meal and sign autographs for star-struck diners.
But the real star of the business was Darryl’s brother, Michael Strawberry, who was the face of the restaurant and a personal friend of many who frequented the bar, according to McAdam.
Joani Emerson, president of the Douglaston Chamber of Commerce, echoed McAdam’s assessment of Strawberry.
“Michael Strawberry has been a leader in the community and we’re all really sad to see this place go,” she said, adding that Strawberry organized charity events and participated in festivals.
Michael Strawberry sat nearby, stoic behind the cash register, his expression clashing with the festive green Jets beads and jersey he was wearing.
“There’s nothing to say,” he told TimesLedger Newspapers.
But residents had plenty of theories as to why yet another business was shuttered at the sleepy cul-de-sac near the LIRR. The location once housed a bar called The Weeping Beech beginning in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the name changed to F. Scott’s, which lasted for about 10 years, according to residents. Then the name changed to B.K. Sweeney’s for a few more years before it became a George Martin steak house and then Michael’s Chop House, which only lasted for a few months.
“I think this place is cursed,” said one longtime resident, who was sipping a glass of an exotic whiskey.
Other theories included a lack of foot traffic, high rent and rising prices coupled with a bad economy.
Flip Arbelaez, who works for Southern Hospitality Group, a partial owner of the eatery, said that constant marketing was needed to draw customers. He added Darryl Strawberry began focusing more on being a minister in the Christian church, which might not have aligned well with owning a bar.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.