Village Revokes Page Outdoor Dining License

Posted on 23 July 2014

Staff members clear tables and chairs from in front of Page at 63 Main after the Sag Harbor Village Board revoked the restaurant's outdoor dining license on Friday. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

Staff members clear tables and chairs from in front of Page at 63 Main after the Sag Harbor Village Board revoked the restaurant’s outdoor dining license on Friday. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

After a month of behind-the-scenes wrangling over unapproved renovations made at Page at 63 Main, the Sag Harbor Village Board pounced on Friday, July 18, revoking the restaurant’s license for outdoor dining on Main Street.

The village took the action even after one of the restaurant’s attorneys, Dennis Downes said losing the option to offer outdoor dining would cost the restaurant between $7,500 and $10,000 a day and even jeopardize its ability to stay in business.

In an 11th hour bid to appease the village, Mr. Downes said Page’s owners had offered to immediately shut down their Back Page café, behind the main restaurant, until zoning and fire code violations there were rectified and a site-plan issued for the property.

Mr. Downes conceded that mistakes had been made, but said the restaurant had been held up during the planning process and had to do the work before approvals were in hand to be ready for the summer season.

“Without those seats, there is a lot of money being lost,” he said of the outdoor dining. “It could be the difference between being able to stay alive in the winter where there are less people out here.”

But the board would not be swayed. “We’re here talking because when there was a suspension… the right thing would have been to remove the tables and chairs and let’s get to the bottom of this,” Mayor Brian Gilbride said.

He referred to an action taken by building inspector Tim Platt, who had cited the business for doing the renovation work with neither a site plan approval nor a building permit and had ordered it to suspend its outdoor dining service until the charges were sorted out. Instead, he said, the restaurant’s owners “thumbed their nose” at the village.

The board’s action clearly got the restaurant owners’ attention. A few minutes after it revoked the license, and Page’s owners and managers left the Municipal Building grumbling among themselves, waiters and busboys were scurrying about, clearing the tables and chairs from in front of the restaurant before the evening’s dinner rush.

On Tuesday, Mr. Downes, and Tom Horn, another attorney for the restaurant, were in Sag Harbor Village Justice Court for an initial appearance on the restaurant’s behalf. Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni said she would have to recuse herself from hearing the case because of a relationship with one of the restaurant’s owners and adjourned the case until August.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Mr. Horn, who said he had only had time to quickly review the charges against the restaurant, nonetheless expressed confidence it would prevail in court. “I think the charges are technically flawed and actually flawed,” Mr. Horn said, “and I say that based on my 11 years’ experience as a fire marshal.” Before becoming an attorney, Mr. Horn was a fire marshal for East Hampton Town.

The restaurant’s saga took another turn on Tuesday night when Mr. Downes, and Gerard Wawryk, one of its owners, appeared before the Planning Board, trying to straighten out the confusion over the restaurant’s renovation project, which was undertaken this spring.

The key issues revolved around changes to the proposed site plan for the dining area now known as the Back Page Café. At a June 26 village board meeting, then-planning board chairman Neil Slevin said the restaurant had done work that planners had not intended.

That included moving without permission the location of an enclosure that would allow it to keep its dumpsters refrigerated as well as the replacement of a grass waiting area with a bluestone patio.

One of the village’s attorneys, Denise Schoen, said that the wooden Dumpster building, which had been placed next to a fence beside Murph’s Backstreet Tavern and connected to the electric service, posed a fire hazard, a charge the restaurant’s owners denied.

Ms. Schoen added that the Back Page had originally been presented as a waiting area, where restaurant patrons could enjoy a drink or hors d’oeuvres while waiting for a table inside, but had, in fact, been turned into an outdoor expansion of the restaurant.

Mr. Downes has said the planning board approved the changes when it accepted a new survey of the site last winter, but board members said it was an oversight.

Despite the disagreement, planning board members were amenable to tweaking the site plan for the Back Page and said they would okay the bluestone patio even though it would exceed the allowable lot coverage because it was served by sufficient drainage.

But planners said they would not allow the dumpster enclosure to remain in its current location because it effectively eliminated the restaurant’s driveway and prevented delivery trucks from backing in off the street, forcing them to instead block one lane of traffic on Division Street.

On Tuesday, Mr. Wawryk offered to remove the dumpster building and replace it with two smaller enclosures that would be set back on either side of the driveway farther from Division Street to provide space for delivery trucks.

Planners said they would send a memo supporting the changes to the village Zoning Board of Appeals, which has held off on a decision on the restaurant’s application for variances, pending a resolution of the site plan issues.

At last week’s special meeting, when the board informed Page’s owners that it was considering revoking the restaurant’s outdoor dining privilege, Mr. Downes tried at first to argue that it was “a was “a valuable property right” that the village could not revoke without “due process.”

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. called those charges “ludicrous,” adding that the village only charged $100 for a license and said if outdoor seats were as valuable as Mr. Downes said they were, the village should be charging more. “It’s a privilege to use public property for a private use,” Mr. Thiele said.

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14 Responses to “Village Revokes Page Outdoor Dining License”

  1. margaret o'brien says:

    I hate to disagree with the restaurant owners as I know they’re trying to make a living, but this type of space is changing our town’s ambiance from nice little Hampton town to a big city affair with outside seating. They won’t have this come winter, can’t they rearrange inside to have more tables in order to keep up their income ?
    This outside area is mainly for the summer people, tourists passing through, summer renters, boat people stopping in…and the all-year-round folks are satisfied with the normal type of restaurant. Didn’t they make a living before this outside area?

  2. MARISA says:

    The business owners have only 3 months to make; can they work with the owners instead of leaving people with out jobs? Having the table outside make it welcoming I don’t see as a big city thing….is more like a European little town too….is nice and friendlier…Please don’t make it harder for the business… hard enough for the working class already.
    I hope you have read this article.

  3. Mark says:

    Outside seating is one of the most desired attraction all over the globe. From Spain to Miami, from. Milan to Paris, from Munich to Athens, in fact I do not know one city other then may be Smrinovtokow in Siberia , that does not offer outdoor seating. It makes a town welcoming and alive and is know to cut dramatically crime. It is once again ” government ” that tells us little children
    to behave. But it is us ” little children ” that pay these people their salaries.
    It is time that government behaves and does not act like little children throwing a tantrum.

  4. andrew says:

    It seems to me that this has been going on for a long time (over a Year). If the building department is so busy that they can’t manage the number of applications that are coming before them why don’t they hire another building inspector, especially when they have some large projects before them like the condos at Bulova. It makes it difficult for anyone to try to get a timely permit.

  5. jake says:

    I am an employee at page and I’m in jeopardy of losing some shifts, possibly even laid off. People love to sit outside during the summer. Taking those tables away affects the whole vibe of the restaurant. Also affects the employees.

  6. juan says:

    All restaurantes we depende of summer To Make are living on winter so you are destroying are dreams

  7. Mariana says:

    Great venue, great food.. it’s a shame the town has jeopardized a Hamptons favorite. Outdoor seating is desired everywhere in the summer and it is in the best interest for all involved.

  8. Meaghan says:

    Page has great food and top-notch service. Its a no brainer that restaurants with outdoor seating attract more customers. Don’t jeopardize the livelihood of all those involved. Let people sit outside!

  9. Larry says:

    Government at it’s worst!! It’s so typical. No matter how incompetent, you still get to keep your job.

    Why is there such a backlog in such a small town? Why would an application sit un-addressed for months? Tell me why? None of this would be happening. Someone in the Beaurocracy has an agenda and it ain’t business friendly.

  10. Gayle says:

    NY Times Reviewer hit it on the head…strolling down Main Street, it’s the shops and restaurants that create the quaint feeling we all love about Sag Harbor. The ability to sit on the sidewalk and have a meal is truly wonderful. We should be supportive of businesses like Page because they contribute to the Sag Harbor experience.

  11. Donna says:

    I have frequented Page on several occasions and aside from the food and ambiance being exceptional the Owners and Staff treated me like Royalty.
    I understand wanting to keep the Small Town feeling alive I felt that had been done very tastefully. The outside dining is to appeal to customers who rather not be confined to air conditioning and more people.
    I think it’s a shame when the township interferes in peoples ability to make a living and enhance an already inviting community like Sag.

  12. Arleen says:

    Outside dining adds to the ambience on Main Street. A wonderful place to eat in the summer. Can even bring one’s dog along. Feels like dining in France.

  13. MaryAnn W says:

    So Cigar Bar…which was around how many years…which has had how many fights, common drug dealings & arrests, over occupancy every night ect. That place was around for how long before the town started to crack down on it? But a restaurant who has been in that spot before there was even a “main street” (albeit many different owners)…you push around with stupid permit and paperwork issues? Let me get this straight… are their lack of permit issues hurting anyone? Are their lack of permit issues ruining main street for us (locals and visitors), is their lack of permits bringing in a bad crowd, Is their lack of permits causing danger to anyone within a vicinity? NO NO NO & NO.
    This is personal…not business and it upsets me as a local and as a small business owner myself.

    This mayor should take his backwards politic to Brookhaven (Crook-haven) like someone else said!

  14. Mark says:

    This is government that is not only self serving but on a vendetta and power trip .
    Instead of serving their community they think the community should serve them.
    Welcome East Germany or Cuba. This is the result when small people are on a power trip .
    Let’s vote them out ASAP.

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