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Will the weekend storm kill Valentine’s Day?

The bar area of Legal Oysteria in Charlestown. Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Mother Nature is taking aim at Valentine’s Day.

After three weeks of storms battered the city, restaurateurs hoped the skies would clear Saturday and the annual celebration of love might resurrect business that had ground to a halt. Now, eateries fear another foot of snow forecast for the weekend could ruin one of the industry’s biggest nights of the year.

“It could be really bad for business,” said Ed Kane, whose restaurant group includes Red Lantern, Gem, Empire, and Scorpion Bar. “Valentine’s Day is clearly a huge day, and you never want to lose a Saturday. There’s no way to make it up.”


Mayor Martin J. Walsh deepened concerns Thursday when he called for a preemptive shutdown of the MBTA on Saturday and Sunday. The mayor said he expected to issue another snow emergency parking ban.

Many restaurant workers ride the subway to work and earlier failures forced establishments with not enough staff to shutter. Restaurants fear a parking ban will only make matters worse and further persuade diners to stay at home.

“It would be disaster, a complete disaster,” said William Kovel, the chef-owner of Catalyst in Cambridge of the potential MBTA closures. “Why would they do that? It’s really antibusiness.”

Restaurants are offering creative promotions and extending their Valentine’s Day deals to the days before and after the holiday to try to offset the prospect of significant losses.

Legal Sea Foods owner Roger Berkowitz took the most dramatic step and postponed the holiday offerings altogether, offering to rebook customers holding weekend reservations to celebrate with a special Valentine’s Day menu in March, when he hopes the snow finally clears.

He said he made the decision in anticipation of cancellations as the weather reports became more grim. He still intends to keep his restaurants open on Saturday and will also offer Valentine’s Day specials.


“Everyone in the restaurant industry lives for Valentine’s weekend,” Berkowitz said. “If the weather gods are going to take it away from us, we want a makeup day.”

Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said the organization’s members were mulling over a similar idea to offer a widespread Valentine’s Day “replay” when the weather cleared.

He said a Valentine’s Day storm might be the worst development yet for an industry facing dramatic sales declines over the last month. Some restaurants have closed as often as six of the last 17 days due to impassable roads, T closures, and travel bans, he said.

“Mother’s Day is the Super Bowl for the restaurant industry,” said Luz. “Valentine’s Day is like the AFC championship game. Those are sales that never come back.”

Restaurateurs said another storm could hit doubly hard because Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year. Eateries do better in years when the romantic holiday comes on a weekday, elevating business on a Tuesday or Wednesday to the caliber of a weekend night.

Lauren Young of Chelmsford is taking a wait-and-see approach about dining out on the holiday. Young said she fell in love with her husband after a Valentine’s Day dinner 10 years ago and was excited about celebrating this year at the Colonial Inn in Concord.

If the snow starts falling early in the day, she intends to cancel and cook chicken and make chocolate mousse at home.


“I’ll be disappointed,” she said. “We really wanted this year to be special.”

Some restaurants said their reservations are already evaporating.

Bergamot restaurant in Somerville had a 12-table waiting list for Valentine’s Day early in the day Thursday. Later in the afternoon, so many reservations were canceled the restaurant had three open tables.

Chef and owner Keith Pooler plans to offer a $95 six-course menu on Saturday. None of the dishes is on the restaurant’s regular menu, so he elected to offer a $55 three-course menu Thursday, Friday, and Sunday with similar ingredients to try to avoid having leftover food he can’t sell.

If the T closes, he said, workers will be sleeping on his couches at his home near the restaurant. Sales at Bergamot are down at least 10 percent compared with last year.

“I’m stressed,” Pooler said. “I have a ‘This too shall pass mentality’ for it. Hopefully I’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Luz urged people to brave the cold, saying that the future of some establishments depends on it.

“Restaurants and as importantly, our employees, are really suffering significant losses right now,” Luz said. “Not everyone will make it through.”

Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TarynLuna. Callum Borchers and Megan Woolhouse of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Jack Newsham contributed to this report.