Last Call For Canterbury Ales
English-style pub shuts its doors after 36 years in Huntington village
Ending the Canterbury Ales legacy in Huntington was not the 55th birthday present owner Billy Hoest wanted when he made the decision to close the restaurant on Aug. 10.
Tough economic times paired with an unforgiving tax audit forced Hoest to close the doors to his 314 New York Ave. restaurant indefinitely, the owner announced Monday.
Hoest, who owned the restaurant for 28 years, said he threw in the towel after a four-year battle with state auditors, who he said “randomly” selected his small business be at the center of the aggressive audit.
The owner admitted to owing “clearly more than” $100,000 in back taxes to the state, and said he was the target of an unfair and unconstructive review process.
“I’m overwhelmed but numb,” Hoest said Wednesday. “I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back… It was a very difficult fight to save. It kept on snowballing and it was a difficult decision; I did not want to do it.”
Over the last month, Hoest said that he exhausted every possible resource to try and save Canterbury Ales, by reaching out to potential investors and working with his landlord and friend, Frank Pavone.
However, Hoest admitted that a more formal search for an investor may have helped prolong or prevent the restaurant’s closure.
A Walt Whitman High School graduate and Greenlawn resident, Hoest said the support he’s received since sending a mass email to customers Aug. 26 has been tremendous.
He has been a part of the restaurant for nearly the entire 36 years it’s been open, starting out as a doorman, then as a bartender and a manger before assuming ownership in 1985.
Hoest said Canterbury Ales was the first restaurant on Long Island to carry Samuel Adams beer when it was considered a micro brew, and added that customers who have become like family to Hoest say Canterbury Ales was the only authentic British-style pub in town.
Longtime customer Will McCaffrey, 44, lives in Lindenhurst and grew up in the Bay Shore area, but still made it a tradition to celebrate his birthday in December at Canterbury Ales in Huntington.
As a recent college graduate and Shakespeare buff – who said he doesn’t even drink alcohol – McCaffey said Canterbury Ales’ appeal was hard to resist. Even British friends who visited from overseas referred to Canterbury Ales as the “perfect recreation” of a European pub, he recalled.
“It was always just a great [place] to relax. You were never stressed there,” McCaffey said.
As a pivotal member of the Canterbury Ales legacy, Hoest said he’s seen multiple generations of families grow over the years; customers who started coming in as adolescents have grown to have families of their own. The owner added that nearly half of his customer base are like family to him, as are the 25 employees who lost their jobs because of the closure.
“Everyone is hurt and upset, but we can find some solace in the fact that we left a mark in town…We’ve identified ourselves always as a local pub and didn’t try and be more than that. We enjoyed so much sitting down with customers…socializing, and sharing my family with their family,” Hoest said.