The specter of Rocco’s, the former nightclub where the now defunct West Water Street condominium project sits, remains a strong force in Sag Harbor. This was evidenced as a proposed restaurant with a bar next door at a reimagined Baron’s Cove Inn drove scores of neighbors to the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board meeting on Tuesday night.
At the meeting, Cape Advisors partner Curtis Bashaw announced his firm has contracted to purchase the Baron’s Cove Inn from KBR Associates, which has owned the property since 2009.
Cape Advisors, the company restoring and renovating the former Bulova Watchcase Factory property into luxury condominiums and townhouses, has been managing the development of Baron’s Cove through the Cape Resorts branch of the company.
Tuesday night was the first admission by the company that it intended to purchase Baron’s Cove Inn, which was approved last year for the exterior renovation of its existing rooms. For the last year-and-a-half, KBR Associates through Cape Advisors has pursued approval to build a restaurant on the Baron’s Cove Inn site.
The restaurant is proposed to allow for 87 seats and will be on the second floor of a two-story building Cape Advisors would like to build where the current motel office sits today. The ground floor is proposed to have a lobby and bar, as well as a small retail space for sundries.
Any outdoor seating — proposed to be 18 seats in season and eight bar seats — have been counted in the total 87 seats the restaurant would be allowed under the village code.
The project conforms completely with the village zoning code and does not need any variances.
On Tuesday night, with the knowledge that residents around Baron’s Cove Inn had organized and were concerned about the impact this project could have on them, Bashaw offered a number of covenants to ensure the bar and outdoor pool spaces do not spiral into the second coming of Rocco’s. As someone who grew up in a small town, he noted he appreciates the need to protect community character and that his company is interested in growing roots in Sag Harbor, not developing it and walking away.
“We want to make sure this really integrates into the spirit of a place and dovetails nicely into the kind of place this already is,” said Bashaw to the roughly 60 people packed into the Sag Harbor Village Municipal Building meeting room.
In Cape May, N.J., Cape Advisors has developed five hotels, noted Bashaw, two of which are historic buildings. All of their properties are developed as “family-friendly,” said Bashaw.
“It’s lemonade, bicycles and lots of flags,” he said. “We believe in the authenticity of our projects and the authenticity of our guest’s experience.”
Bashaw added the last thing he would want to do is resurrect the experience neighbors’ had with Rocco’s.
“It’s just not what we are about,” he said.
Bashaw noted the pool area will be fenced off from the restaurant, and the company has agreed to limit the times alcohol is served on the property beyond the limitations set by the State Liquor Authority, which allows bars to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.
Bashaw said after hearing neighbors’ concerns he has even agreed to put some of the concessions in a deed that will run with the land, whether it is sold or not.
Bashaw said the pool will be restricted to hotel guests only. On the patio, any acoustic music will end at 9 p.m. and outdoors last call will be 10 p.m. All alcohol service, said Bashaw, will end at midnight.
The restaurant will also not have cover charges or bottle service to avoid any club-like atmosphere.
While neighbors requested the bar be located upstairs, Bashaw said they did not want to take away from the aesthetic they believe the bar space gives to the lobby.
In terms of poolside dining, he added his firm doesn’t want to tell guests they cannot have a sandwich by the pool, and the company would also be loath to restrict outdoor games, as has been requested by neighbors.
Angela Scott, a Spring Street resident representing a number of neighbors, said she appreciated the restrictions, but said they did not go far enough.
She questioned the size and location of the bar as the restaurant is meant to be accessory to the hotel use. Scott said the bar should be moved upstairs near the restaurant, as most bars associated with restaurants are not on a separate floor.
“The open floor plan allows overflow into the lobby,” she said. “We see the potential for a large area for bar service.”
Scott said she appreciated the restriction on cover charges, but in terms of outdoor games she said “pool polo and things going on like that could elevate the level of noise” especially if alcohol is being served.
Scott also asked Cape Advisors to not place signage advertising the restaurant on the property and said seating around the pool should be clarified.
Amplified music from a sound system or juke box and what acoustic instruments are allowed were another concern Scott expressed, noting enforcement of these noise related issues are difficult and the fines too low.
Agreeing that Cape Advisors was “trying hard to meet our needs,” Scott said neighbors were concerned there was not enough parking and would like mass gatherings limited on the property.
According to planning board chairman Neil Slevin, the board will revisit the matter and discuss issues like parking at its September 25 meeting.
“I think they are all valid concerns,” agreed board member Gregory Ferraris. “I think we have discussed most of them over the last 18 months.”
Ferraris added everything Cape Advisors is requesting is allowed under the village code.