Shock Waves: Joey’s Out As Beach Concessionaire

For over 30 years, one of the joys of Compo Beach has been Joey’s by the Shore.

Joey Romeo has been more than just a concessionaire. He’s developed the most extensive menu of any beach food shack anywhere (he’s also sold beach towels, chairs, hoodies and more). He’s opened on spring weekends long before the official beach season, and been there on fall weekends long after the summer crowds have gone.

Joey Romeo, in a typical pose.

He’s the friendliest guy you’ll know, with a great, hard-working staff of (this is a rarity) Westport kids. He makes sure they’re polite, efficient, and that they keep the area spotless.

So it was a shock to learn from Parks and Recreation director Jennifer Fava just moments ago that Joey’s By The Shore will no longer operate the concession at Compo Beach — or the others at the Longshore Pavilion and Longshore halfway house — effective immediately.

Fava says, “Regrettably, Mr. Romeo has advised us that he will not pay the full rent due in 2019 under his lease, nor is he willing to fulfill his remaining 3 years under the lease. We have made every effort to negotiate mutually acceptable terms, but we have not reached an agreement with him.”

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

First Selectman, Jim Marpe added, “We appreciate the many years of service Joey has provided to the community, especially at Compo Beach, providing food for our beachgoers and jobs for some of our young adults. We will be working to get a new concessionaire in place to meet the needs of our residents and users.”

I’ve reached out to Joey for comment. Anecdotally, I’ve heard (though not from Joey) that last year — in the aftermath of new, heftier fees for Westonites and other out-of-towners, and a limit on the number of daily passes sold — was a tough one for him.

I’ll follow up when I hear back. In the meantime, here’s a tip of the Compo cap to Joey Romeo, and all his staff, for their 31 years of loyal, loving service to Westport.

21 responses to “Shock Waves: Joey’s Out As Beach Concessionaire

  1. NO!!!!!! This is awful news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Wow! Lower the fees for Joey. He’s part of Westport’s history, community, and a friend for all. Come on. Reduce the fee for the concession and keep a little bit of Westport. He deserves a break for his loyalty.

  3. Wow, this is stunning news. I am very interested to hear Joey’s side and hopefully this can be worked out.

  4. This is so upsetting. Typical westport. We talk about how much we love all of these places but then when small businesses can’t make it in this town we are surprised. All I have to say is that if Coffee Ann’ ever closes I’m moving!

  5. WOW! Picking my jaw off the floor…
    Well, this may explain why he didn’t stay open into November like he normally does and the dumpster I saw at the back door…
    I wish you well Mr Romeo.
    I always enjoyed your food in off season since I’m just over the line in Norwalk. Thank you

  6. I think Joey has a legitimate complaint. The Town has reduced the number of customers by limiting daily parking passes, probably to Joey the most lucrative users of the beach, and that was done after the last lease negotiations. It is a shame to lose this very generous member of the Westport community.

  7. This bums me out big time. Joey runs a first class operation. I will be curious to hear his side. He’s right about the parking limits, they should have been adjusted prior to last season.

  8. You don’t think the high costs of doing business in CT had anything to do with whatever issues Joey’s faced? Demand for higher hourly wages hurts his business. Higher sales tax. I could go on.

    Just a guess-P&Z and others tried their best to keep Joey’s. Being late on rent is a real sign he in trouble and would continue to be in a difficult way should he continue.

    Get ready for much higher prices should someone else take over. $15/hr is coming and that will flow thru to the costs of goods sold.

  9. Andrew Colabella

    When you have residents complaining about overcrowding and force Parks and Recreation commission for limit the number of daily passes sold a day to 100, is beyond friggin ridiculous.

    So 65$ a car on a weekend or holiday, $6500 a day is all we can take in, even though the lot by the skate park is 200+ parking spaces wide open. It then changed to reselling the spot if it opens. To me, it’s ridiculous and unheard of.

    I fought this decision for two years in meetings and certain residents did not want to see large crowds at the beach. I’m sorry, but if people want to pay that money to come into the beach, let them. We survive off these summer dollars. It’s not greed. It’s financial sustainability and stability.

    We want new facilities new bathhouses new paved lots, new new new where do you think this money comes from?

    Limiting the number of cars coming in limited the number of customers and patrons. It hurt. And now we’re losing a local westporter with a unique cozy colorful business.

  10. Paid full price for my beach sticker but I only came 7 or 8 times this year and my boys can’t Joey’s open on their own. Actually, I bet they could if I let them order what they actually wanted to…

    I will miss it…

  11. Hallie Picarello

    Wow. I’m Speechless. -_-

    Actually, I could think of a few words. But they wouldn’t be very lady-like. I’ll say that much.

  12. Cynthia Cummiskey

    I am devastated to hear Joey is leaving! Just an example of how higher fees to keep people off the beach has had a bad impact on the community.
    Please try to work it out with lower or same rent for Joey….

  13. Michelle Benner

    This is so sad. Can’t Westport give Joey’s a break on the rent?

  14. How to shoot yourself in the knee!
    Just do the math:
    Non-resident sticker price was $ 490 is now $ 795 and the number of stickers has been limited from 600 to 350.
    600 x 490 = $ 294,000 and 350 x 795 = $ 278,250. The amount is almost recovered through the higher price, but it’s 250 families less who come to the beach during the whole summer with let’s say two kids, so an average of 1000 people multiplied by X visits.
    Talking about people from Weston with a 50% increase from $250 to $375 and for seniors from $130 to $200, there is a lot of people who don’t come anymore.
    Plus all the other price hikes for locals, seniors, handicapped, parking increase weekdays and weekends all 25% and only 100 day passes sold……what do you expect ???

  15. does anyone have a timeline of when joey’s renewed their lease and when the talks about limiting daily passes started? what i could find was previous lease expired 2012, was renewed for 5 years? that would put latest renewal in 2017? then the talks about limiting daily passes also started in 2017? my question is what happened first? were there meetings/official record about potentially limiting daily passes before the renewal or did that only happen after? if it happened after, i can understand why the town may be should be more flexible in re-negotiating lease OR considering changing the limit based on the past summer and how crowded/not crowded the beach was. if joey’s knew or should have known about the possible change before renewing then i can understand the town’s stance. also, given its 2019 and we are a data-driven society, curious if beach use was tracked at all and compared to prior years? did someone pick the 350 nonresident and 100 daily limit out of thin air or was there data behind it to support the change? did joey’s go to the town or attend meetings with concerns about the limits before or after they were imposed? has joey’s released any numbers on how many less customers / revenue they experienced this past summer compared to previous summers (even as a %)? just like to see all the facts laid out… ps. i have been going to joey’s for 25+ years!

  16. I just hope most will be fair. Business transactions end, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad, most usually because of a divergence of interests. My inclination is to believe that First Selectman Marpe and Dir. Jen Fava did the best they could. Some may fault that if they wish. I think of the Avery/Baldwin Lot consolidation, something most wanted and which Jim Marpe and his team believed a fair deal had been reached. Sadly, that deal unwound at the last minute through no fault of the Town unless the view is the Town should acquiesce to the other party in a negotiation. We will miss Joey’s and wish all well. Our Town personnel did what they thought was right. Anyone can disagree, but I hope that there is a recognition that neither Jim nor Jen wanted Joey’s to close. We want our Town run well and in a financially sound manner. My guess is that is precisely what Jim and Jen tried to do..
    Don Bergmann

  17. Michael Calise

    I believe two years ago was a kick up year at 350 last year was a reaction year at 100. Large price increases were to finance ego driven “improvements” (not to say that all were not good) but most were overkill. Its truly an unfortunate situation. Longshore was not much different.

  18. Big mistake to let him go! Who doesn’t love Joeys !!!

  19. What a shame! Joey was so helpful to us in getting “Cliff’s Place”, the new Longshore halfway house, up and running. He’s been an important part of the fabric of our community and will be sorely missed.

  20. Very sad. Back in the 90s, I worked at Joey’s for four (or, five?) summers. He was a great boss. It’s the end of an era!!

  21. I guess I’m just piling on here, but yes, this is very upsetting. Being able to spend summer evenings on the beach and drift over to Joey’s for hot dogs and sodas is one of the simple pleasures that makes our town an attractive place to live. Now he’s leaving. It’s hard to see how a new operator is going to be anything other than be overwhelmed by the same burdens that have apparently taken him down.

    The problem is becoming systemic. Between rising taxes, rents, minimum wage rules, and other encumbrances, it’s obviously getting harder and harder for small business people to keep providing services to us and jobs to their employees. And if they give up, who’s going to be around to fill the void?