By Kathryn G. Menu
The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees empowered the planning board Tuesday night to monitor the impact of outdoor seating in the village and have attorney Denise Schoen research best practice rules and regulations for appropriate sidewalk clearances before the village approves any outdoor dining permits for the 2014 season.
The decision was made following a discussion about whether or not to allow Madison & Main restaurant to increase its outdoor seating from eight seats to 16 seats—creating four, four-person tables rather than four, two-person tables on the sidewalk in front of the Main Street eatery.
Barbara Manning, the business manager of The Cuddy and Sen Restaurant, also on Main Street, was also on the agenda asking to increase seating at both of those restaurants and extend outdoor dining hours from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
“I have a problem,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride to Madison & Main chef and owner Eric Miller when looking at their request. “It is a tight space.”
Gilbride said because the sidewalk is narrow in front of that restaurant he is concerned increasing seating would only exacerbate an already crowded space.
The issue, Miller argued, is his original plan called for four two-seat tables to be placed flush against the restaurant, meaning they cannot be pivoted to accommodate larger parties of three or four guests. If he does that, Miller said he is cited by code enforcement.
“It’s not your fault,” said Gilbride. “But this is a narrower portion of the sidewalk we are talking about.”
“It’s just not enough room,” said board member Ed Deyermond, adding planning board chairman Neil Slevin expressed concerns about the existing outdoor seating in a memo to the village board and building inspector Tim Platt.
In that memo, Slevin noted that at its June 24 meeting the planning board did approve four tables for outdoor dining on the public sidewalk in front of Madison & Main, with the understanding that village benches would be moved to ensure pedestrians still have the ability to use the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
“The planning board opinion is that, with the bench in place, there is insufficient room on the sidewalk to justify placing tables there during the busy summer season,” said Slevin. “Even without the bench, we believe the space is tight, and are concerned that we may be creating a pedestrian log jam there.”
Slevin asked the board for permission to monitor the situation over the summer in advance of a planning board recommendation in October regarding whether or not outdoor seating should be allowed in front of Madison & Main in 2014. He also asked the board to review its current policy and look at potential changes to the code to ensure sidewalk clearance is possible in front of all restaurants with outdoor dining in Sag Harbor.
Deyermond agreed with Slevin that this aspect of the code needs a second look, noting that he was almost unable to walk on the sidewalk in front of Sen or The Cuddy on his way to the village board meeting.
“I am hoping to revisit this whole deal before early next spring,” he said.
According to Miller, his existing outdoor dining plan, and his new proposal for four, four-seat tables, both meet the existing village code.
Under the current code, restaurants are allowed outdoor dining limited to 20-percent or less of the number of indoor dining seats, and provided the overall seating capacity of the restaurant is not increased. Any outdoor dining seats on public property— the sidewalk or over village property—must be limited to an area within the width of the building and cannot extend more than six feet into any sidewalk. Another provision of that code demands pedestrian passage on any public sidewalk cannot be impeded by outdoor dining seats.
“I think we have to look at everything that is going on in terms of sidewalk uses,” said board member Robby Stein.
For Miller, Gilbride said the board would table the application and send it to the planning board and the building inspector for comments. If both of those entities do not take issue with Miller’s request, the village board will give the request further consideration, he said.
“So I am tabled,” asked Miller.
“How ironic,” said Deyermond.
The village board agreed to Manning’s request to extend their outdoor dining permits at Sen Restaurant to October 30 — allowed under the code — but would only extend outdoor dining hours to what is allowed under village law, to midnight. The board did not agree to Manning’s request to increase outdoor dining seats at both Sen Restaurant and The Cuddy from eight seats to 12 seats.
“This is something we really need to take a look at after the season is over,” said village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. “To me the rules should be the same for everyone.”
In other village news, trustees officially signed off on the re-zoning of 48 Madison Street — the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church — allowing it to return to residential zoning after changing the zoning to add the property to the Village Business District in 2010.
Returning the zoning to residential will allow Sloan Schaffer, an entrepreneur and gallery owner, to transform the space into a single-family residence. Schaffer purchased the building from Elizabeth Dow, who originally purchased the property from former Southampton Town Councilman Dennis Suskind with the goal of moving her wall covering design studio and retail space, Elizabeth Dow Mixed Media, into the space. Schaffer pursued Dow for two years in an effort to purchase the building, which he did earlier this year. Dow, on the other hand, is moving her business into the Golden Eagle Art Studio space on Gingerbread Lane in East Hampton.