Black Eyed Susan’s, one of downtown Nantucket’s most beloved dining establishments, has been shuttered since October 2021 and its status has been in limbo ever since.
The India Street restaurant never reopened last year - despite assurances from co-owner Susan Handy that it would - and it doesn’t appear that Black Eyed Susan’s will be back in 2023.
There was no announcement, no formal goodbye or explanation. And its web site still bears the message “see you in April 2022.” To this day, there has been no official word from the restaurant.
After nearly 30 years in business, what exactly happened to Black Eyed Susan’s? While co-owners Susan Handy and Jeff Worster declined to comment for this story, a former employee and another associate told the Current that the restaurant and the real estate at 10 India Street are up for sale. While it is not publicly listed, these sources said the restaurant's employees were informed last spring that Black Eyed Susan's was not reopening, and was instead being sold.
“I believe it's on the market and it sounds like they’ve had a few offers and were close to closing on one, but the people bailed out at the last minute,” a former Black Eyed Susan’s employee told the Current. “But everyone's a little wishy-washy on what’s going on there.”
While Black Eyed Susan’s was shuttered last year, Handy and Worster were still on-island running The Chanticleer in Sconset, which they have done since 2006.
In the spring of 2022, rumors circulated around the island that Black Eyed Susan’s was done. But when contacted by the Current, Handy was adamant that the restaurant was reopening.
“Ha,” Handy laughed in a text message. “I have heard the same thing every year for at least 25 years. See you in late May.”
But when late May came and went with Black Eyed Susan’s still closed, Handy did not reply to several messages. The restaurant sat vacant all summer, and in November, its sign quietly came down from the facade of 10 India Street. Again, no fanfare, no announcement.
“It’s strange,” said one associate of the restaurant’s decision to keep its customers in the dark.
Despite Handy’s assertions that Black Eyed Susan’s was opening in May of 2022, Amy Baxter, the town’s licensing administrator, said no restaurant permit (known as a common victualler permit in municipal government parlance) had been issued for Black Eyed Susan’s that year. The restaurant team never requested a renewal at the end of 2021.
“My understanding is it expired December 31, 2021,” Baxter said. “We never issued a common victualler license in 2022.”
As for this year?
“I have not heard anything or received any applications,” Baxter said.
Handy and Worster opened Black Eyed Susan’s in the spring of 1993. They had originally met several years before while working on-island at The Boarding House and then The Summer House. They found a small space on India Street - which had previously been known as “Two Steps Up” - to open up Black Eyed Susan’s three decades ago. The restaurant became an instant hit, with lines down the street in its first summer as word spread in the community about their breakfast menu. In 1996, they purchased the 1930s-era building at 10 India Street and cemented Black Eyed Susan’s as a staple of the downtown dining scene.
Handy’s hospitality and Worster’s food, not to mention the diner-type ambiance of the interior, the open kitchen, and the BYOB policy, all helped endear Black Eyed Susan’s to residents and visitors alike.
Will the next owner carry on the tradition? Time will tell...