By Kathryn G. Menu
The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees has denied a request by the Sag Harbor Booster Foundation to allow them to serve beer and wine on Long Wharf during the annual Sag HarborFest weekend, September 7 and 8.
The decision, made during a special work session on Thursday, August 29, came after board members talked about the potential repercussions of suspending the village’s open container law, albeit temporarily, to allow the Booster Foundation to sell wine and beer on Long Wharf. The tent was proposed to benefit both the Booster Foundation and the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.
“Historically, it has never been done,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride.
While the Sag Harbor Food Pantry traditionally ran a Clam Chowder Contest, as well as a tent offering wine and beer on Long Wharf in turn for a donation to the not-for-profit, this year those duties have been taken over by the Booster Foundation. The village board has never been asked to approve this kind of permit and for the first year is the official, and sole, owner of Long Wharf after having purchased the facility from Suffolk County earlier this year.
“I am just not for it,” said board member Robby Stein, questioning how it was allowed in previous years without a permit.
“In the past the activities have been monitored where things are kept in close control and I will leave it at that,” said Gilbride, noting he had spoken with Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano about the situation.
“We will be in the middle of something no matter what we do, but for me this just opens up a door,” said Gilbride.
“On one hand you have this awareness of substance abuse and alcohol in the high school and then you have the booster committee raising money for the school by selling booze,” added Stein, wondering about open container laws and whether the board could even allow one entity to break that provision.
Board member Ken O’Donnell noted that open container laws can be relaxed for a specific time period. Other communities, he added will allow groups to ask for a donation for a glass of wine, where it is not technically for sale.
“To me, it’s a big deal,” said Stein. “It needs planning, I think.”
Board member Ed Deyermond agreed.
“It’s not a slippery slope; it’s a cliff,” he said.
“There is a tremendous amount of liability out there and thank God no one has gotten hurt,” added Deyermond. “And now we own the wharf.”
Stein added if there was time to investigate the issue the answer may be different, but with the application coming in at the last minute he was unsure how it could be approved.
“I wish there was a middle ground, but I can’t find any,” agreed Deyermond.
In other news, the village board also denied a request by the Sag Harbor American Music Festival, which will be held September 27 and 28 throughout the village, the right to set up a stage in the alleyway between Romany Kramoris Gallery and The American Hotel.
Stein noted the festival has resulted in no problems, despite concerns during its inaugural year that it could impact businesses, and residents, negatively.
“People seem to enjoy it,” he said. “During HarborFest Long Wharf is closed off to a lot of parking spots — this closes out just six.”
However, the consensus of the board was that regardless it was just too much.
“The setbacks don’t work,” said Deyermond.
“I think they have enough venues,” added trustee Kevin Duchemin.