Patchogue Village bans nightclubs
Nightclubs/cabarets have officially been banned by the Village of Patchogue after approving a code amendment earlier this week. According to village attorney Brian Egan, only one nightclub — formerly operating as the Emporium and now operating as Stereo Garden — officially applied for a special permit to operate as a nightclub; several other D2- and D3-zoned establishments on Main Street have been illegally operating as nightclubs under their restaurant permitting.
D3, according to Egan, is the core Main Street business district, while D2 is the immediately surrounding South and North Ocean avenues and the extended Main Street stretches to Maple and Waverly avenues.
This code amendment, Egan said, will no longer allow restaurants to file for a special permit, thus eliminating all potential nightclubs, excluding the grandfathered Stereo Garden, which was upfront about their operations from the approval stage.
“As with everything that has happened over the last 14 years, whether it be traffic, recreation or processes in the building department, we are constantly looking to improve,” said Mayor Paul Pontieri of the reason for the code change while away on vacation. “Nightlife in the village has grown to a point where some limited controls need to be put in place to help manage it. This piece of legislation does that.”
He continued explaining that the code change was developed after recommendations from both village Public Safety and Suffolk County Police Department and also a review of the NY State Liquor Authority licensing rules. The legislation, he said, brings village code in compliance with that licensing and the SCPD’s concerns.
Nightclubs have been defined as any establishment that moves tables and chairs to increase occupancy for entertainment and dancing during hours of operation beyond a normal dining time. A number of restaurants on Main Street, Egan explained, have been operating under this definition despite never having applied for the special permit. According to the NYS Liquor Authority, a restaurant’s liquor license is not expanded to operate as a nightclub and is also in violation of the license. The concern, he said, is that by moving tables and chairs it increases occupancy, leading to overcrowding.
“Our review of Main Street is that nightclubs and cabarets have no purpose there; it isn’t a use we want to encourage,” Egan said of the reason to ban even the application for the special permit. “It’s illegal from a fire code and their approved use standpoint.”
Patchogue resident Jo Miller questioned why the ban excluded industrial-zoned properties. She feared nightclubs would move towards the water and riverfronts to industrial-zoned areas. According to Egan, it was excluded from the amendment being that industrial zoning typically permits all uses.
“The river is going to get it best. But still there are a lot of clubs masquerading as restaurants and this is better late than never,” said Miller.
Patchogue resident John Bojack agreed with Miller, sharing her concern for the industrial waterfront locations including the newly vacated Blue Point Brewery, which is to become a distillery, and the current plan for the Aqua Hotel at the Off Key Tikki.
Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy questioned if the code change included New Village. Egan said despite the DRD zone, it conforms to the original zoning, which was D2 and D3.
“The ban is really irrelevant to my place and other places who have been operating for a number of years. We operate under the guidelines of the village code,” said John Sarno, a member of the chamber’s restaurant committee and owner of Village Idiot Pub and Drift 82.
According to Sarno, though his VIP location often features live music at night, he does not move chairs or tables to accommodate the party atmosphere. Instead, he said it’s more of a bar scene.
“I think the code change was really more of a proactive measure to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand,” he added, mentioning some of the expected new restaurants. The restaurant committee plans to meet sometime in July.
During Monday night’s public hearing, no one spoke out in opposition to the code change and it was approved by the board with one abstention from trustee Tom Ferb.
“There is no one speaking out about this because they know what they have been doing and they know the rules of their approved use,” added Egan.
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