AGAWAM — The Federal Restaurant will be temporarily closing its doors Saturday, Feb. 24, to focus on rebranding the restaurant and renovating the building, as well as to open a Mexican restaurant in Longmeadow.

Co-owner Ralph Santaniello said minor tweaks have been made to the restaurant since it opened in 2002, but now major structural work needed to be done. He also has “big ideas” for the space, but declined to say any in case they don’t get realized. He said he has a list of potential improvements. Whether they will happen depends on the cost and return on investment.

“It would be pretty dramatic to the space,” he said.

As for rebranding, Santaniello said the restaurant will continue to be called The Federal, but tweaks will be made to its fine dining concept to make it more profitable. The tweaks will not be dramatic; the restaurant will not start serving fast food, he said. They are however a result of the increased cost of labor and ingredients since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business and if you can’t make a profit, you can’t survive and you can’t last another 22 years,” he said.

The Federal is owned by The Federal Restaurant Group, which also operates Posto in Longmeadow; Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen in West Hartford, Connecticut; and is planning to open Lola’s, a “Coastal Mexican” restaurant based on Mexican and Southern Californian cuisine, in mid-March.

Asked why they couldn’t close one of their other restaurants, Santaniello said that they also owned The Federal building itself, which they bought in 2002. That allowed them to work on it as both building owners and business owners.

The work could take anywhere from five to seven months. In the meantime, employees of The Federal have been offered jobs at Lola’s. Santaniello said he was confident that 90% of employees will be transferred over, including 90% of the management team. The chef at Lola’s will be transferred over from Posto. All will have the option of returning to The Federal once it reopens.

Part of the reason The Federal closing now, Santaniello said, was because they could ensure they won’t hurt employee’s finances.

“It’s not just the building, it’s the people inside of it that make it special,” he said.

The Federal’s name comes from The Federal Hill Club, a restaurant that ran in the building from 1930 to 1989. When Santaniello bought it with chef Michael Presnal, the two found that neighbors still referred to it as “The Federal Building,” even though at the time it hosted an Italian restaurant named Carpaccio’s. Presnal wanted to start a fine dining venture after working on Martha’s Vineyard for a couple years, and falling in love with the cuisine.

Both are excited to see what the future holds.

“We would like to thank everyone for the continued support with all of our endeavors and look forward to welcoming you into Posto, Vinted and, very soon, Lola’s, for the same great food and service that you’re used to,” said Presnal in a statement.

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