NEW BRUNSWICK — It's an early winter hibernation for Old Man Rafferty's restaurant in New Brunswick, not a permanent closure, the owner is telling patrons after a temporary door sign sparked concerns this week.

Restaurant owner Mark Jakuboski said to New Jersey 101.5 on Wednesday that the plan is to reopen for Valentine's Day, with a specialized menu for that holiday weekend.

He said anyone in the restaurant industry is so mentally drained, more than nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued indoor restrictions, that he'd rather be able to pay his staff for a few days leading up to the holidays before a planned furlough — and then have them ready to work hard in the new year.

"We've been around for 36 years and we'll be around for another 35," noting the Old Man Rafferty's location in Hillsborough will remain open for online ordering, with climate-controlled food delivery trucks. He also said that online purchasing of gift cards remains an option.

Jakoboski said that over the summer and early fall, "outside dining was really good to us," but the wintry conditions have led to a drop-off.

He said he'd rather take the next month to concentrate on the upcoming season so that both locations present as a "well-oiled machine" when it comes to the newer routines that customers have become accustomed to during coronavirus.

As reported by NJ.com, Jakuboski previously used his personal home equity line of credit to help keep his full-time employees under their health insurance in the earliest months of the pandemic.

New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association President Marilou Halvorsen previously told New Jersey 101.5 that she has heard from a good deal of restaurant owners who have decided to strategically close after Christmas and New Year’s for at least the start of 2021, as the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent dining restrictions wear on.

Outdoor dining in New Brunswick during summer 2020 (courtesy of Old Man Rafferty's staff)

Make your own easy hot chocolate bombs