By Stephen J. Kotz
Although there was an inch or two of fresh snow on the ground, the Sag Harbor Village Board was looking ahead to July on Friday morning when it met to review the request of Bay Street Theater and the Sag Harbor Center for the Arts to once again hold its summer benefit on Long Wharf on July 11.
The board, which had tabled the discussion from its December meeting, gave the green light for the cultural organization’s annual gala, provided it submit an acceptable parking plan to the village board and reduce the size of its party tent to allow emergency vehicles to gain access to the pier.
Although board members had bandied about the idea of charging Bay Street a fee of as much as $20,000 to hold the gala, they did not pursue that idea, noting the center’s importance to the village’s cultural life.
“Bay Street brings a lot to Sag Harbor,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “I don’t think this was an effort to deny you, it was an attempt to work through some complaints.”
Those complaints came mostly from merchants and restaurant owners, he said, who have complained that the annual cocktail party and dinner on the wharf is now using up much of the available public parking in the business district, effectively curtailing their own opportunities to make money.
One of those business owners is Trustee Ken O’Donnell, who owns La Superica restaurant.
“My concern is the parking,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “The parking didn’t work last year.” Mr. O’Donnell said with the Bay Street gala removing 80 spaces on Long Wharf and the owners of 1,3,5 Ferry Road, which has a lot next to the North Haven Bridge, closing it to public access, there would be about 140 fewer spaces available.
Another problem, Trustee Ed Deyermond said, is that the setup for the gala now begins on Thursday and the tent is not removed until Sunday, extending the parking shortage over four days during the short summer season.
Mr. Deyermond said he would support the issuance of a permit for the gala, but stressed to Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street’s executive director, “you have to show some real initiative in parking” this year or the future of the event will be jeopardized.
Ms. Mitchell, who said Bay Street nets about $200,000 from the annual gala, added it would consider canceling its Saturday night theater performance this year to ease up on the parking crunch and would also seek once again to use the parking lot behind St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, although she acknowledged it is next to impossible to force people to park several blocks from the site.
“I don’t see someone parking at St. Andrew’s in a gown and hoofing it to Main Street,” added Mr. O’Donnell.
Mr. Gilbride suggested that Bay Street explore using Havens Beach and providing a shuttle service between it and the theater the evening of the gala. He said that a similar arrangement had worked when a major fundraiser was held at the Watchcase condominiums last year.