Norwalk's Oak Hills considers ending Dry Dock restaurant contract

Norwalk's Oak Hills Park Authority is considering ending its restaurant deal with Dry Dock owner Don Mastronardi over business operations and unpaid rent.

Norwalk's Oak Hills Park Authority is considering ending its restaurant deal with Dry Dock owner Don Mastronardi over business operations and unpaid rent.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

NORWALK — Less than a year into a five-year contract, Oak Hills Park Authority is considering ending a partnership with a local restaurateur operating the golf course’s eatery.

With the club in its off-season, the Oak Hills Park Authority is considering significant changes to the restaurant’s operation, which is run by Don Mastronardi, owner of Dry Dock Bar & Grille on Main Street. Mastronardi operates Dry Dock Smokin' Aces at the Oak Hills golf course as well as the restaurant at the private Silvermine Golf Club.

Oak Hills Park Authority member Alan Dutton claims Mastonardi has fallen behind on rent and has not offered a consistent dining schedule or a preferred food selection at the public golf course.

“When is the restaurant open? Because the frustrating thing for us this last year was, we never knew when the restaurant was open or closed. He would just open or close it willy-nilly,” Dutton said Monday during the city's Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting.

“We basically said we need to be open from April to October, six days a week, lunch and dinner in afternoon, and if you can’t do that, then we can’t continue this arrangement.”

Along with the restaurant’s inconsistent hours, Dutton said the authority wants the clubhouse to offer continental breakfast in the mornings.

“People really want to have coffee and stuff like that. The third thing we look at is to have an inexpensive golfer's menu available all the time on the menu, so we can cater to everybody who comes in there," Dutton said.

Mastronardi did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Mastronardi has also fallen behind on rent payments, having just delivered the final payment for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ended in June, Dutton said.

The authority does not plan to move forward with Mastronardi until the back payments have been made, Dutton said.

“I am prepared to, under the terms of lease agreement, two months’ notice with cause and three months’ notice without cause,” Dutton said. “We have the two months’ notice with cause, because he hasn’t paid us any rent yet."

During spring 2021, Mastronardi entered a five-year contract with Oak Hills to operate the clubhouse’s restaurant. However, the restaurant did not open until this past March due to a series of construction setbacks, product delays and worker shortages.

Mastronardi previously served as the club’s general manager until about midway through this year, authority documents show.

“As you know, Don was doing that, which is like the fox watching the hen house in my opinion,” Dutton said. “It’s a little more than we were paying Don, to get the right candidate. It’s still a part-time position without benefits, but I think this will really help us, having someone there, and would be within our budget.”

Abigail Brone can be reached at abigail.brone@hearstmediact.com.