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Museum Bumps Thatched Cottage Contract 

After Thatched Cottage owner Ralph Colamussi filed to put his catering hall in Chapter 11, the Vanderbilt Museum has reopened its search for a caterer, a job for which Colamussi was previously a top contender.

New fallout from Thatched Cottage owner Ralph Colamussi’s recent bankruptcy filing emerged at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium Wednesday night.

The museum’s board of trustees voted unanimously to issue a new request for proposals (RFP) for catering services at the museum, a contract for which Colamussi had been a top contender.

“Given recent circumstances that have highlighted financial difficulties on the part of the individual we were considering contracting with, we have decided it was in the best interest of the Vanderbilt to put it back out to an RFP and see what kind of responses we get,” Vanderbilt board vice-chairman Joe Dujmic said.

The Thatched Cottage filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Jan. 2. Colamussi’s attorney said last week that the owner and the catering hall were swamped with millions in storm damage-related debt from Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy after a $2-million FEMA disaster recovery loan fell through.

The contract to make The Thatched Cottage the caterer for the historic Gold Coast estate nearly came to fruition in May 2013. Then, after nearly four years of negotiations, the Suffolk County Legislature was poised to clear the way for the Vanderbilt board to sign a five-year contract, with three five-year options, with Colamussi to cater at the Vanderbilt and open three concessions on the grounds.

However, that vote was tabled in May 2013 shortly before a vote was called. At the time, the contract was projected to generate more than $200,000 in combined revenues and cost-avoidance savings for the museum, officials said.

While Colamussi could re-file under the new RFP with hopes of catering at the Vanderbilt, Dujmic said reissuing the RFP means the museum is basically restarting its search from scratch.

“This is quite disappointing for me that we have to go back to square one,” Dujmic said.

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