By Kathryn G. Menu
It became abundantly clear to everyone in Sag Harbor by the end of this past summer that The New Paradise Café’s days could be numbered. Advertisements in local newspapers pointed to the fact that restaurateur Robert Durkin was struggling to renew a five-year lease at the Main Street space with property owner Hal Zwick.
By mid-September, the restaurant’s website came down and its lettering was removed from the awning above the long-standing staple in Sag Harbor dining.
Now, a new team hoping to open a restaurant in the space — chef Eric Miller and restaurateur Michael Gluckman — have taken the first steps towards making that space their own.
During a meeting of the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) last Thursday, December 13, Chef Miller revealed he was in lease negotiations with Zwick and hoped to change the aesthetic. His idea includes opening up the restaurant to the sidewalk through two French doors that face onto Main Street.
“What we are trying to do is enter into a long-term lease at 126 Main Street,” said Miller at last Thursday’s meeting.
Miller said the goal was to expose the restaurant to more light, in a similar fashion achieved at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse on Main Street in Bridgehampton.
Miller proposed two French doors that could open up to the sidewalk on Main Street, in what was an informal discussion item before the ARB.
According to Miller, the team has discussed the concept of naming the restaurant “The Peconic,” making it a seafood tavern focused on local, fresh seafood and vegetables.
Miller, who owned the lauded seafood-centric restaurant The Catch in Port Jefferson, is also a partner in Food & Co.
“I am looking forward to cooking food from around here,” said Miller.
Changing the aesthetic of the former Paradise building, said Miller, is critical.
“If we can open up the front I think that is very important to our success,” he said.
“I think it is great,” said ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown. “When I reviewed this, I thought this is a long time coming.”
Miller was encouraged to bring formal plans back to the ARB for approval.
Another Main Street application that earned high marks from the ARB on Thursday night was Jim Giorgio’s proposal to raise 125 Main Street — the home of WellNEST — and restore the building from the foundation up.
The building was originally constructed in the 1750s. So badly deteriorated, Giorgio’s architect Chuck Thomas originally proposed its demolition and re-building the structure in-kind. But that idea was quickly re-buffed by residents, as well as not-for-profit organizations like the Sag Harbor Historical Society and Save Sag Harbor.
The project took new shape with a proposal to lift the building and construct a new foundation, while the first and second stories would be reframed using as much historic material as possible.
Giorgio also plans to remove existing vinyl siding and replace it with wood and also has proposed to make an existing asphalt roof shingled wood as well.
“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas on Thursday night, noting that Giorgio would like to see the major construction completed before the summer season begins.
Brown indicated the applicant should submit formal plans for approval for the ARB’s January 10 session.
In other ARB news, Kathleen White was approved for new windows at her Jefferson Street home, and Katherine Betts was approved for the demolition and reconstruction of her 122 Madison Street residence, although the ARB did ask architect Kathryn Fee to consider using wood, instead of asphalt shingles on the roof. Roof materials, according to the board resolution, were tabled to a later date while the rest of the project can move forward in seeking a building permit from the Sag Harbor Village Building Department.
Maria Mathiesen was also approved for the replacement of 12 windows at her Bayview Avenue home and Matt Arena was approved for a garage at 97 Glover Street.