Hark, The Sage Angel Sings

Alan Appel PhotoNeither last year’s hurricane nor this year’s “superstorm” could drown out Christmas at City Point.

It came early to the neighborhood, as usual, on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, as 110 kids of all ages gathered at the Sage American Grill & Oyster Bar for a City Point tree-lighting Sunday evening.

Sage had the good luck of being inundated by merely five inches of water instead of five feet when Super Storm Sandy struck last month.

That was the take of Dave McCoart, Sage’s host and generous donor of the abundant wings, pizza, salad, and cookies at the annual Christmas event for the last 12 years. He was assisted Sunday by Kris Sainsbury of the Hill/City Point Neighborhood Action Group, Carmen Romero, Lucian Addario, and a platoon of other donors and volunteers.

As usual, Santa arrived by fire truck, the wide-eyed kids tossed a cupful of very artificial snow, and an allee’ of white-lit Christmas trees clicked on the back deck.

McCoart had rebuilt that deck after Hurricane Irene in 2011. It survived the power of Superstorm Sandy with the loss of only one board.

McCoart reopened nine days after Sandy hit. First he had to replace $15,000 worth of carpet and restock $12,000 worth of food he had to dispose of from six days of being without power.

He said that Restaurant Week wasn’t quite as successful this year as last because too many people still thought he was closed. McCoart said that since then business has picked up,with many holiday parties already booked.

McCoart recalled that in preparation for Sandy, the restaurant was boarded in expectation of huge tide and blast of water.

Had the water come up to the bar, on which McCoart now leaned and struck for emphasis, “We’d be closed a year. You’d have to rebuild everything.”

He counted himself lucky that only carpet had to be replaced, and no dry wall.

As Santa took kid after kid on his knee a few feet behind him by the warm Sage fire, McCoart’s friend, retired Branford building inspector Art Johnson, sipped some holiday scotch and said, “If we ever get the real one they’re talking about, this place is gone. You can’t stop the water.”

McCoart nodded in agreement.

He said that the post-Irene rebuilt deck survived Sandy just fine because New Haven building inspectors required the rebuilt deck no longer to be merely nailed, but screwed in. The under-rdeck was also strapped to the pilings, so even if boards on top were blown off, the structure would remain.

And it did.

“I really feel fortunate,” McCoart said.

Built To Survive Worse than 1938’s Hurricane

Back from supervising the elves and bringing some extra high chairs to a table so a family could sit together, McCoart recalled that when Sage was built in 1974, it benefited from having an architect who well might have been thinking about 2012.

That architect worked for the Chart House, which originally constructed and occupied the building now housing Sage. McCoart worked for the Chart House. (He bought Sage in 2000.)

“When he [the architect] built this, he checked the high[est] tide,” on record, McCoart recalled. That turned out to have occurred during the hurricane of 1938. Then he told the Chart House Company to built the restaurant two feet higher than that high tide mark.

“Without that we would have been flooded numerous times,” McCoart said.

“You can’t stop the water,” agreed Art Johnson.

Or the Christmas spirit at Sage.

At least not until the Big One arrives.


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