Neighbors turn blue over proposed restaurant plans

10/18/2013 10:30 AM |

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A proposal to allow outside guests to eat at the Blue Inn in East Marion has local community association members concerned.

The Blue Inn in East Marion is hoping to open its restaurant to outside guests but the people who live closest to the motel say they aren’t happy about that plan.

Blue Inn owner Sam Glass, an attorney from Hempsted, has requested a special exception from the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals to expand service at the current restaurant to outside guests. Currently, the Blue Inn is permitted to serve food and drinks only to guests of the year-round motel.

Under the new plan, Mr. Glass is proposing to open the restaurant to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 1 through Labor Day. No outdoor music would be played after 9 p.m. and the bar would close at 11 p.m., according to the application. Small events would also be permitted until 9 p.m., under the proposal.

It’s a plan that does not sit well with nearby residents.

“Our priority is to maintain East Marion as a quiet and peaceful hamlet,” said Anne Murray, vice president of the East Marion Community Association. “The town needs to be careful when weighing [the needs of the] business and community.”

Neighbors said the new plan is reminiscent of concerns they had about the motel under its previous ownership, when the restaurant was open to the public. In a letter sent to the ZBA in mid-September, neighbors Joseph Zizzo and Maria Capotorto said the motel functioned like an “illegally constructed outdoor nightclub” under the previous owner, who sold the motel to Mr. Glass more than two years ago.

The letter goes on to recount instances of drunken guests arguing and wandering into neighboring yards.

“It was a torturous time for East Marion,” Ms. Murray said.

The community association’s concerns about the motel helped lead the push to pass Southold Town’s first noise ordinance nearly three years ago.

In a 2011 interview with The Suffolk Times, Mr. Glass said he had no knowledge of the controversy when he purchased The Blue Inn. He could not be reached for comment for this story.

In a letter to the ZBA last month, he said he was also unaware that an agreement he signed with the town in 2011, which categorized the restaurant as an accessory use to the motel, would not allow it to be open to the public.

Mr. Glass said in the same letter that opening the restaurant to the public is necessary to sustain the business.

“Only having 29 rooms does not allow enough guests to dine with us to keep the restaurant active,” he wrote. “It has been our experience that guests alone will not suffice. We need local support.”

Mr. Glass said the request for a special exception is meant to help keep the business afloat, not transform the property into a bar scene.

Presently, The Blue Inn’s restaurant has a 48-person capacity and Mr. Glass said he doesn’t intend to have more diners than that at any time.

Still, the East Marion Community Association is not convinced the past won’t repeat itself.

Members believe opening the restaurant to the public would increase traffic, late night activities and noise, all of which they feel are inappropriate for the residential hamlet.

While recognizing that the town has received no formal complaints regarding the Blue Inn since it’s been owned by Mr. Glass, members say that doesn’t guarantee it would remain that way should the restaurant be opened to the public.

They said the quiet installation of a tiki bar is a sign that things are about to change at the motel.

“Once Mr. Glass gets a taste of the revenue from the bar, which promises to be lucrative, it will be very difficult for him to turn away paying customers who just want to stop in for a drink,” East Marion resident Joseph Zizzo told the ZBA. “It would not be in his interests as a businessman.”

The current application before the ZBA calls for enclosing the existing outdoor patio with netting or plastic covering to protect guests from insects and inclement weather, while surrounding the existing deck with a temporary three-and-a-half foot wall so that people will not slip off.

A parking attendant would also be hired to manage traffic generated by patrons, Mr. Glass told the ZBA.

If he were to sell the restaurant, a future owner would have to refile for a special exception if they wanted to open the restaurant to the public year-round, said Vicki Toth, assistant to the ZBA.

The board closed the public hearing last week and expects to make a decision on the application in early November.

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