By Kathryn G. Menu
It appears likely Cape Advisors will earn final approval from the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board next month to construct a restaurant this winter at Baron’s Cove Inn on West Water Street. The restaurant is part of the firm’s plans to transform the inn into a family-friendly, resort destination.
During a contentious August meeting, some neighbors protested the restaurant design, which includes a first floor bar area next to an expansive lobby — an aspect of the plan that had neighbors reeling with memories of Rocco’s, an unwelcome nightclub fixture on West Water Street for many years.
The not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor was also present at the meeting, with attorney Susan Meade arguing if approved, she believed the village would be legalizing a second primary use, rather than an accessory restaurant to a resort motel. An accessory restaurant is legal under the Sag Harbor Village code for the parcels that hold both Baron’s Cove Inn and the neighboring Sag Harbor Inn.
The neighbors called on the planning board to send the plans back to Sag Harbor Building Inspector Tim Platt to review whether or not the proposed restaurant was truly an accessory use to the resort-motel.
Last Friday, Platt agreed it was.
In an October 19 memo to the planning board, Platt noted the restaurant fell within the size limitations for an accessory restaurant use under the village code, was proposing 87 seats — including the eight proposed for the bar space — which also meets code and is providing 80 parking spaces where 63 are required.
Platt goes on to argue that bars are commonly associated with restaurants in Sag Harbor and that under the code unless alcohol sales became the primary sales out of the restaurant it would be considered ancillary.
Platt also pointed to a list of restrictions Cape Advisors has agreed to put on the property — restrictions that will run with the land no matter who it is sold to in the future — as evidence of the company’s commitment to serving alcohol only around the times the restaurant is actually in service.
Under the restrictions, Cape Advisors has agreed to have last call for any alcohol in the outdoor dining area on a proposed patio no later than 10 p.m., all outdoor background music will end at 9 p.m. nightly, last call at the restaurant’s bar will be no later than midnight and the hours of the restaurant bar will be tied to the hours of the dining room. However, he added, room service will still be permitted to sell alcohol.
Cape Advisors has also agreed to prohibit bottle service of liquor and will not allow cover charges or entry fees, which are common calling cards of nightclubs.
The pool will also be restricted to hotel guests and their guests and will be closed at 9 p.m. as will the outdoor concession area.
The planning board also questioned the use of the concession area at last month’s meeting. During their October session, on Tuesday night, Cape Advisors partner David Kronman said the stand would hold bathrooms, towel service and would sell water and ice cream to hotel guests. Alcohol, he said, will not be sold out of the concession stand.
In order to alleviate some parking concerns expressed by neighbors last month, Kronman said the firm has also explored valet car service, which he estimated could add about 10 spaces to the 80 space lot. A hotel manager will have the power to implement valet service on busy summer nights, said Kronman.
Given what he called the “unprecedented restrictions” Cape Advisors have agreed to place on the land, Kronman asked the board to move forward in approving the application.
On Tuesday night, not one resident spoke out against the project.
Walking through site plan issues the planning board must assess when reviewing a project — traffic, parking, screening, consistency with development in the area, outdoor lighting and drainage, during issue after issue, Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren noted based on revised plans submitted last month the application not only met code, but in terms of things like drainage was also improving the parcel.
In a straw poll, the board was unanimous that if Tim Platt signs off on the final set of plans and no red flags are raised in the board’s own review over the course of the next month it will approve Cape Advisors application at its November 27 meeting.
Sag Harbor Village attorney Denise Schoen was instructed to draft a draft approval for that session.