Gwen Waddington, co-owner of the Wharf Shop, Sag Harbor’s iconic toy store, and her mother, Nada, have always considered themselves supporters of the local business community.
Over the years they’ve developed relationships with neighboring property owners like Jay Hamel of Murph’s Backstreet Tavern and Gerald Wawryk of Page at 63 Main. Waddington has worked with Hamel to try and curtail some of the patron runoff onto the Wharf Shop complex property during the late night hours, and Hamel, she said does his best to aid in that effort.
It’s not always successful, she admitted during a Sag Harbor Planning Board meeting Tuesday night.
“It’s more than garbage — sometimes it’s ‘I have drunk too much and I need to puke somewhere’,” said Waddington of what is occasionally discovered when the morning dawns.
That being said, Waddington said she “applauds” businesses in Sag Harbor, including Page at 63 Main, but wanted it on the record she is concerned about a recent proposal to allow Wawryk to expand outdoor dining into what is now empty outdoor space most often used for deliveries and parking. If it evolves into a new place to party in the village, with Murph’s Backstreet Tavern directly abutting the proposed outdoor dining space, Waddington said on Tuesday she worries there will be the potential for patrons to mingle between the two spaces.
“We have concerns about the party increasing beyond what Sag Harbor can handle,” she said.
While it was not that issue chairman Neil Slevin was most concerned about, at the close of Tuesday night’s planning board meeting it appeared as if Wawryk’s proposal is precariously close to falling short of approval, despite forceful testimony by his attorney Dennis Downes that it should be allowed as of village code.
Instead, it was the age-old Sag Harbor issue of traffic and circulation that stopped Slevin from being able to move forward with an approval.
Wawryk has changed his application from its original proposal — seeking now legal outdoor seating in an area behind Page at 63 Main under the village code provision that allows restaurants to apply for outdoor seating, provided it does not increase the number of seats allowed in a restaurant and only makes up 20 percent of the seats that business is entitled to.
Originally, the area was proposed to have high tables where patrons could wait for a table or take-out food from the restaurant, although they would be allowed to carry out drinks and take out finger foods while they waited.
In both the original and current scenario, no service is expected in this part of the restaurant — patrons will have to go inside to get libations or a snack.
According to Downes, Wawryk is entitled to 118 to 124 seats — the building inspector maintains it is 118 while Downes counters it is 124 — and outdoor seating would come from what the restaurant is already allowed to have whether that be indoors, in the front where diners currently enjoy outdoor seating, or in the rear of the building.
Downes appeared confident in his client’s application, but was immediately questioned by board members not about the potential for an all-night party, but where garbage would be stored and how delivery trucks would be able to access the business.
Board member Jack Tagliasacchi — owner of Il Capuccino Restaurant — was absent Tuesday night and would likely recuse himself from the case because of the similarities in his business to Page at 63 Main, according to Slevin. Board member Gregory Ferraris, a CPA with Banducci, Katz & Ferraris, said while he would discuss the case he would recuse himself from a decision because of financial relationships with involved parties. That means in order for Wawryk to be successful in his application, he would need approval from the remaining three members of the board — Nat Brown, Larry Perrine and Slevin.
In addition to Waddington, Meg Farrell, an attorney representing Hamel and Murph’s Backstreet Tavern was also on hand, opposing the application because she believes the outdoor area in question is currently used for deliveries and garbage pickup. She also questioned whether the State Liquor Authority (SLA) should be allowed to rule on this issue and whether the Suffolk County Health Department would also need to get involved.
Village attorney Denise Schoen countered the health department would not have jurisdiction in this case as Wawryk is not seeking to expand the number of seats in his restaurant. The SLA, she added, cannot weigh in on the case until the planning board has made its decision.
Slevin said his concern was that eliminating the driveway would eliminate an existing delivery zone.
“That is definitely within your purview,” counseled Schoen, noting the board’s job was to implement good planning in Sag Harbor.
Slevin said he was concerned it could set a precedent where the few businesses or homeowners who do have driveways could seek to abandon them to expand.
“I have difficulty approving something that fundamentally aggravates an already critical situation ,” he said, noting when a delivery truck parks on Division Street it backs up the roadway in the summer.
Downes questioned why the area was even being referred to as a “driveway” noting it is not required.
Ferraris noted it was labeled as such on the survey.
“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” added Slevin.
“Part of the planning board’s job is to look at circulation,” added Schoen.
Farrell added her client would attest to the fact the space is currently used for parking and for deliveries.
While Slevin made a motion to deny, Brown and Perrine stalled asking for another month to consider the concept.
The public hearing on the proposal is closed giving the board exactly 62 days to make a ruling.
In other news, the Bagel Buoy on Bay Street was approved to relocate a walk in refrigerator to the rear of its building. Madison & Main was also approved for eight outdoor dining seats on Main Street, provided the village relocates two existing benches that impede circulation.
The next Sag Harbor Planning Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 23 at 5:30 p.m.