‘Serving the Hamptons’ restaurateur’s new Greenport eatery shut down for code violations

In a series of swiftly unfolding events last week, ‘Serving the Hamptons’ restauranteur Zach Erdem’s brand-new, North Fork eatery ZErdem was shut down at least twice over four days by Greenport officials due to alleged code violations and breaches of state liquor law.

The restaurant received a cease and desist order on Wednesday, after a code inspection found numerous violations. The violations included housing people in a trailer behind the restaurant, various safety hazards and the breaking of what Greenport Mayor Kevin Stuessi described as a promise by the restaurant owner to officials and neighbors at a Village Board meeting two weeks ago, that he would not be playing music outdoors on the restaurant’s patio.

Mr. Stuessi said that when a community member specifically asked Mr. Erdem whether the restaurant would have outdoor music, he denied it.

“Clearly he was being disingenuous at the meeting,” Mr. Stuessi said after the first time the restaurant was shut down and ordered to remain closed pending a June 14 court hearing.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Erdem denied the restaurant was serving liquor without a license and insisted that all the code violations had been mitigated.

Then on Friday night, a clearly frustrated Mr. Stuessi arrived at ZErdem, found it had reopened, and called Southold Town police. The restaurant management was ordered to close, according to Mr. Stuessi. “They were cited on, I believe, 14 different infractions, including illegally serving alcohol … and we shut them down two days ago,” Mr. Stuessi said on Friday night. “They were not to reopen until at least [after] the court hearing on the 14th … and we’re going to shut them down again.”

By this point, Mr. Stuessi’s patience had worn thin.

“I’m flabbergasted that the business owner decided to reopen after he was served with a cease and desist order,” he said. “The Village of Greenport is immediately going in front of a judge to make sure that they are shut down as they should be, until the hearing on the 14th.”

Town police contacted Mr. Erdem and he “intimated that he had corrected the issues, but the police explained to him that he needed to wait until he was in front of a judge,” Mr. Stuessi said, adding that “it’s surprising that he’s not listening to the order.”

But as soon as the mayor and the police left Friday night, the restaurant resumed business.

On Saturday, the restaurant reopened again, and after going to court the village obtained a restraining order against the restaurant, which was served on restaurant management by the village attorney, Mr. Stuessi said.

Mr. Erdem, who did not respond to requests placed on Friday night for an interview, had claimed ignorance of local laws in an interview a day earlier.

Mr. Erdem stars in ‘Serving the Hamptons,’ a reality show which follows the staff and celebrity guests at Southampton’s 75 Main restaurant, which he also owns.

In an interview on Thursday, he denied violating state liquor law. He said that the restaurant received formal notice from the State Liquor Authority of their approved liquor license for ZErdem on May 31, and that prior to that, no customer was ever charged money for alcohol.

“I’ve been in this business for 25 years,” he said. “I would never, ever do something so stupid. We did not serve alcohol. Either people brought their own or we were just pouring [liquor] for people and not charging them money.”

As for the code violations, Mr. Erdem said he was simply ignorant of the village codes, and that all the violations had been cleared up.

“Whatever it takes on my side, I’ll make sure we follow the rules,” he said.

On Thursday, Mr. Erdem said he was unaware that the trailer — where he said his chef lives — was a violation and that it had been moved to its permanent home in a nearby campground first thing Thursday morning.

“I thought it would be okay for a couple days,” he said.

Mr. Erdem said the outdoor speaker is a common component of popular restaurants.

“They were upset I had this speaker outside,” he said, referring to a village code inspector. “I had mentioned at the [May Village Board] meeting I would have dinner music. I don’t think anybody would not expect you to have dinner music on the patio.”

Mr. Erdem said the whole experience was “very upsetting [but] we got everything straightened out overnight. The speakers are done, the trailer has been moved and the the cables they said were a violation are gone.”

Mr. Erdem said on Thursday he is anxious to be a good neighbor but was surprised by the village’s actions. He said he never had problems like this at his Southampton restaurants, 75 Main and Blu Mar.

“I wish they would just come and give a warning and we will take action immediately. That’s how it is in Southampton. I’ve never seen anything like [Greenport’s code enforcement] in my lifetime.

“In Southampton,” he said, “if you do something wrong they’ll come and tell you. I didn’t know how the village runs.”

Still, he said “I respect their decisions. They’re trying their best.”

Mr. Stuessi said that the restaurant received numerous warnings before action was taken.

Restaurant employees “had been spoken to on a few different occasions by code enforcement, and I personally went over and spoke to one of the managers about trash [from the restaurant] blowing onto the road.”

He said the decision to take action wasn’t taken lightly.

“It’s unfortunate, because we want businesses to open and be successful here.”