Tag Archive | "Blue Sky"

Sag Harbor Continues to Talk Tunes

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Tora Matsuoka has been in the restaurant business for 16 years, starting at Sag Harbor’s Japanese mainstay Sen when he was just 13 years old. Since then, he has become the co-owner of Sen and its sister restaurant Phao Thai Kitchen, consults regularly with restaurant groups and plans to continue to expand his culinary empire.

“I would like to say publicly, it is a great idea to legalize music in Sag Harbor,” said Matsuoka who spoke at Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board hearing on a proposed music permit that would allow restaurants like Sen to legally offer live music to its patrons. It’s a practice that has gained steam recently and made the village the go-to spot for those seeking more than fine cuisine on the East End.

“Owning a restaurant in Sag Harbor is more philanthropy than a business,” said Matsuoka, noting as a business owner he needs to make ends meet while contending with a short, summer tourist season.

Matsuoka was not alone at Tuesday night’s hearing, as several business owners expressed support for the legislation, but like Matsuoka asked for clarity in the law and to have the opportunity to sit down with the village board of trustees to ensure the legislation is something that benefits local businesses and protects the village from enduring a club-like scene on Main Street.

As currently written, a music permit would be free and businesses could simply apply with the village clerk to obtain one. Barring any issues or complaints, the permit would be automatically renewed each year as long as the business has not changed hands.

The law would allow live music to be played in restaurants no later than one hour after dinner service, and no later than 1 a.m. Bars and taverns would also be allowed to host live music, no later than one hour before they close, and all establishments would need to adhere to the village’s noise ordinances. Cabarets, discos or nightclubs will not be granted a permit, nor would any restaurant or bar with characteristics of a cabaret, disco or nightclub.

“Right now, the way it exists anyone walking down the street could say there is music going on and we would have to enforce [the current law],” said trustee Robby Stein, one of the proponents and authors of the new law.

Trustee Tim Culver opened Tuesday night’s hearing stating he has some concerns with the law as written, namely, that it should come with a permit fee, and that he wondered how late the village should allow businesses to have live music.

He added he would like the village to be able to immediately suspend a music permit should a problem arise, and ensure the business a hearing in front of the board of trustees within three business days, a concept the board agreed with as often village code issues can be tied up in court for months on end.

John Landes, co-owner of Bay Burger, just outside the village limits, said music at that establishment, which can be credited with the crescendo of live music in Sag Harbor this year, has been profitable, but also something the community as a whole has embraced.

“If the ordinance passes, we will find this is definitely a benefit to the continued expansion and life of the businesses of Sag Harbor,” he said.

Beppe Desiderio, co-owner of Blue Sky, said his main concern is that the village defines what music is, as he has had everything from Jim Turner’s open mic night to disc jockeys and even a drag queen perform with success.

“Once you decide that, I think we are going somewhere,” he said. “I think the most important thing at the end of the day is the decibel level, occupancy and safety.”

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano said he was not interested in restricting anyone from having live music, but stressed defining what that is and what is allowed is critical for enforcement.

Before moving forward, Mayor Brian Gilbride suggested forming a committee of trustees, business owners and the police chief to sit down and discuss the law, ideally before next month’s village board meeting.

Justice Position Adopted

The Village of Sag Harbor officially created the position of Village Justice at Tuesday night’s meeting, the first step in the current administrations plans to revive plans for a Justice Court in Sag Harbor.

With little fanfare, and no protests, the board adopted the law which creates the position, although Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. noted it is subject to permissive referendum, which means a resident can ask the board put the law up for a public vote if they gather enough resident signatures.

Lastly, the board discussed the possibility of extending its sewer main to the John Jermain Memorial Library on Main Street in the first public hearing on the matter.

The library has asked the village to extend the village sewer line for its proposed expansion of the historic library building, which is currently under review by the village planning board. The expansion would require three homeowners and the Custom House to also hook up to the line, as village code demands anyone with reasonable access to the sewer line become a user.

According to Gilbert Flanagan, the library’s attorney, the four property owners have been reached out to, but the library has yet to hear any comments back from them about the proposal.

Vinny Gartiello, the library’s civil engineer said given the expansion and the library site, the Suffolk County Health Department suggested this was the route the library should take as they would otherwise need a variance from their department for an onsite sanitary system.

The village sewer main would be extended down Main Street, said Gartiello, about 250-feet and down Union Street where it would connect to the library. The total cost of that construction would be paid for by the library and is estimated to cost upwards of $200,000.

Gilbride said he would like the village to reach out to the affected property owners and let them know should this occur they would have to hook up to the system, at their own cost, as the library has yet to offer to cover that expense yet.

The hearing will be kept open and reheard at next month’s village board meeting.

Music in Sag Harbor May Require Permits

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By Kathryn G. Menu

From open mic nights at Blue Sky with Jim Turner to Friday night jazz at Phao, Sag Harbor’s Main Street has been awash in live music and entertainment this winter, delighting patrons with soulful sounds, belly dancing and even drag queens.

And as of now, this is technically against the law.

Next month, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will present legislation that will legalize live music in restaurants and bars, although live entertainment like belly dancing and even disc jockeys appear to be off the table in the first draft.

On Tuesday, May 11 the village board will host a public hearing on a new law that would allow restaurants, bars and taverns the ability to host live music, with a village-issued permit.

“Clearly, in every restaurant and bar in town there is some kind of music being played and based on the current code it’s basically illegal,” said Sag Harbor Deputy Mayor Tiffany Scarlato, who wrote the draft code with trustee Robby Stein. “We wanted to support the business community and give people the opportunity to legalize what is happening and at the same time give the village control over the potential transformation of a restaurant into a nightclub.”

According to the draft law, a music permit would be free and establishments would need only to fill out an application with the village clerk to obtain one. As long as there are no problems in the next year, the permit will be automatically renewed.

The law allows music to be played in restaurants no later than one hour after dinner service, and no later than 1 a.m. Bars and taverns would be permitted to have live music no later than one hour before they close, and all establishments must adhere to the village’s noise ordinances. Cabarets, discos or nightclubs will not be granted a permit, nor would any restaurant or bar with characteristics of a cabaret, disco or nightclub.

The law was drafted similar to legislation enacted in East Hampton, which Scarlato penned herself.

“I think almost every municipality has the same type of definitions in their codes and they all restrict music in that they don’t want them to turn into nightclubs,” she said.

However, added Scarlato, the idea was conceived in an effort to ultimately help the business community by legalizing a practice that has been an economic draw for individual restaurants, and the village as a whole.

After first introducing the law, at a village budget meeting earlier this month, Scarlato noted it was purely a draft and “something to throw out there and get some feedback.”

“I think this is a great idea,” said Beppe Desiderio, co-owner of Blue Sky. “It is business driven, but more importantly, this supports the village and the people who work here by bringing people to Sag Harbor.”

Desiderio and his partner, Gerald Wawryk, both took issue with the notion that bars and taverns could host music later than restaurants, noting in Sag Harbor, technically the only legal bar is Murphs Backstreet Tavern on Division Street. All others are restaurants, and even the Cigar Bar is technically zoned for retail.

Wawryk added he would like to see the time increased to 2 a.m. for restaurants.

“We have to bring some of the nightlife back,” he said. “From a business point of view, if the mom and pops are going to survive, we have to give a little bit more. I am not saying we want rock and roll or techno – that’s not suited to Sag Harbor.”

Desiderio said music at Blue Sky has been crucial to the restaurant’s success, in particular the open mic sessions they began on Thursday evenings in the off-season with local musician Jim Turner.

“We had people who would otherwise have not come into the building come see us – we were able to bring them in,” said Desiderio. “They loved the music and they saw we were able to create a great environment here. I had mothers, high school kids that play in bands – everyone was here.”

While the open mic night will only be held every three weeks in season – the next show on May 20 – Desiderio said in the fall it will resume weekly, due to its popularity. Currently, Blue Sky has planned on hosting a disc jockey on Friday and Saturday nights, something Scarlato said was not allowed under the current draft law.

“I don’t understand that,” said Wawryk, noting his New York State Liquor Authority License allows him the use of a disc jockey on premises. He added a lot of charitable functions at Blue Sky have used a cover charge, also not allowed in the draft law, to raise funds.

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano said this week he was reviewing the law, and meeting with building inspector and fire marshal Tim Platt to go over some ideas. While supportive of the measure, Chief Fabiano said his main concern was ensuring the law was crystal clear, easy to read, and specific about what will, and what will not, be allowed in Sag Harbor.

“Some laws that have been passed, or codes proposed, you need a lawyer to figure out what it means and it can be taken three different ways by three different people,” he said. “It’s a good idea – let’s just make it clear.”

Boys Will Be Girls: Show Gives “Main Drag” New Meaning

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By Marianna Levine

Last Saturday night, the term “Main drag” took on a whole new meaning in Sag Harbor. By 10 o’clock, it was standing room only at Blue Sky restaurant on Main Street where a wide range of people had turned out to see Danny Ximo’s “Raffa Show,” a cabaret in drag. Young, old, gay, straight — all jostled for drinks at the bar prior to the start of the main attraction.

“We were amazed. There were over 200 people there last Saturday night,” enthused Ximo who offered everything from a rousing lip-synced version of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ “All that Jazz” to a Marilyn Monroe impersonation. During the evening, Ximo kept the crowd whooping and hollering through several elaborate transformations and also making on-stage appearances were Evita Peron, and Ximo’s personal idol and inspiration, 1970s international singing sensation Raffaella Carra.

While for a moment, Blue Sky felt a bit more like 1930s Berlin or Paris than Eastern Long Island, circa 2010, the show did represent Sag Harbor in all its multifaceted and creative glory. And like accepting port towns the world over, there was something warm and welcoming in the performance and in the audience’s acceptance of it

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“Sag Harbor is one of my favorite places in the world. Events here are always full of talent and invention,” noted Ximo. “Although I must say I do enjoy performing all over the Hamptons. But Sag Harbor has a certain energy and feeling. I would say it has good vibrations.”

The Raffa Show has actually been in Sag Harbor since in 2009, when Cigar Bar owner, Arlene Furer, repeatedly requested that Ximo create a show for her after seeing him in drag one Halloween. With Cigar Bar now closed, Ximo took the show over to Blue Sky. Ximo, a native of Argentina who lives on Shelter Island, is quite humble when explaining how he started performing in drag.

“I am mainly a professional actor and dancer,” he said. “I was actually touring with a children’s theater company when I ended up in New York for a Spanish performance of the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ But when I started dressing as a woman for Halloween about 10 years ago, people complimented me on my legs and said my body was perfect for wearing a dress. I don’t mean for this to sound strange, but I thought, ‘Okay maybe I could do this type of show’.”

Ximo makes it clear that he wants the “Raffa Show” to be inclusive, meaning he wants everybody to feel comfortable and “open their minds and hearts” to a new experience. Saturday night’s audience certainly reflected the diversity he hopes to attract. While the bar did seem to have an active singles scene, the restaurant had many couples and families with adult children taking in the entertainment as well.

“This is my first time here, but I love Danny, and I’m so happy to see him perform,” said Isabel Sepulveda who was there with her adult daughter. “You can see he put a lot of effort into this show.”

Sitting near Sepulveda was Nancy Haynes, dock master of Sag Harbor’s Waterfront Marina, who proudly stated that she was “Danny’s adopted mother.”

Ximo is clear the “Raffa Show” is not just a one-woman show (so to speak), but in fact explains that it takes a slew of people to produce it, including his friend, business manager and DJ Lorena Bacolandro. He also has a whole team of hair and make-up people, including Omar Tello, who also likes to claim Ximo as his “adopted son.”

After the “Raffa Show” concludes, Bacolandro continues to play music throughout the evening, mainly disco from the ‘70s, for the amped up crowd. Both Ximo and Bacalondro explain that they are hoping to present the show each month at Blue Sky but that they don’t yet have the exact date for the next show. However they encourage people to go on the “Raffa Show” Facebook site in order to get all the latest performance updates.

“We’re trying to do something original each show,” said Ximo. “We don’t want it to be the same thing each time.”