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Rusty Scupper Closes; Restaurant Sets Sail After Nearly 30 Years

Matthew Hersh

With very little fanfare or notice, the Rusty Scupper, a Princeton culinary mainstay, closed the kitchen for good on Sunday after nearly 30 years in business.

Emily Haggman, spokesperson of Select Restaurants, Inc., the Ohio-based corporate management firm that owns the "Scupper," said the company regrets the closing of the restaurant and thanked the community for the support it has received in Princeton throughout the years.

Toby Laughlin of the Laughlin Group, which owns the building expressed the same regret and said the two parties could not agree on a new lease.

"We clearly had a long-time relationship with [Select], and they knew what the rent expectations were and how those expectations could be achieved," he said.

However, with the lease renewal imminent, the two entities could not come to terms on an agreement that was satisfactory to both parties.

Mr. Laughlin said the rent for the property at 378 Alexander Road is relatively high because of parking accommodation requirements. The space crosses an area that is owned by New Jersey Transit, and then into a parking area overseen by Princeton University.

At the end of the day, the rent proved to be too high for his tenants, Mr. Laughlin said.

The landlord added that Select Restaurants had difficulty coming to an agreement on paying for the space owned by New Jersey Transit, but did not take issue with the University.

Like any landlord, Mr. Laughlin would like to fill his vacant space as soon as possible, and is open to ideas. He said that he has been exploring ideas for some time now, indicating that negotiations with Rusty Scupper's corporate management had been failing for some time.

Kristen Appelget, president and CEO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that any time a longtime business in an area closes it is a loss to the community and to the patrons. However, she said that the Alexander Road location is a good spot for future culinary enterprise.

"Because the location is near both the Route 1 and Princeton business districts, I would think it is a great opportunity for another restaurant to move in," she said.

She added that while the Chamber does not ultimately influence who occupies vacancies in town, it can direct inquiring enterprises to the facility.

"When businesses want to come to the area, one of the first places they contact is the chamber," she said. "In that ombudsman role, we can try to be a liaison between a [prospective business] and the town."

The Scupper was known to its clientele as a semi-upscale restaurant with a traditional menu featuring steak and seafood. Taking pride in its 50-foot long bar, the restaurant also enjoyed the business of a regular bar crowd.

While Princeton may have lost its Rusty Scupper, there are two others in safe harbor along the eastern seaboard: one in New Haven, Conn., and the other perched in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Select Restaurants, Inc. also owns Winberie's Restaurant &Bar. A spokesperson from the firm said the long-time Palmer Square stalwart is in no danger of closing.

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