By Douglas Feiden
When the owners of the Sag Harbor Inn notified the village in February that they were applying for a license to serve beer and wine on the hotel premises, they had every confidence that they would be able to accommodate thirsty guests by Memorial Day at the latest. It didn’t happen.
Instead, the Board of Trustees in March authorized a letter to the New York State Liquor Authority that advised its licensing division that a liquor license was a “prohibited use” in the Resort Motel Zoning District along West Water Street, where the 42-room hotel is situated. The letter stopped the SLA process dead in its tracks.
Actually, there is nothing prohibited about it, says Nathiel Egosi, who co-owns the hotel with his younger brother Richard. On the contrary, it is a “customary” use, one the hotel enjoyed for years, without objections from the village, on a property that doesn’t have a tavern, restaurant or stand-up bar, says Tiffany Scarlato, his attorney.
The timing couldn’t be worse: After completing a seven-figure, top-to-bottom renovation that kept the hotel shuttered for five months, the Egosis reopened on April 1 with a new marketing plan aimed at recouping their investment as the high season got underway.
That involved, among other things, providing certain amenities to guests, like the option to buy and consume wine and beer, but not distilled spirits, on hotel grounds.
But Mr. Egosi can’t do that without a license. And that means that a couple celebrating a wedding anniversary and looking forward to a relaxing glass of wine, for instance, might take their business elsewhere, he says.
“When we’re unable to provide our guests with that amenity, it results in our financial harm,” Mr. Egosi said. In turn, that hurts the village economy since his inn provides 25 jobs, contributes to local charities, donates meeting space to nonprofits and spends heavily on goods, services and contracting, he said.
“We’ve already lost April and May, we’re going to lose June, we’re in jeopardy of losing July, and I’ll be lucky to have my liquor license on Labor Day,” he said. “The village should rescind the letter as soon as possible and give us a chance to recover.”
Adds Ms. Scarlato, “Bureaucracy is a frustrating thing. Every day the hotel sits without a liquor license is costing them money, and they can’t serve their customers properly.”
What happened? On February 9, another attorney for the inn notified the village it was applying for a “tavern license.” That caused “some confusion,” Ms. Scarlato said, since the inn doesn’t have a tavern, and on February 29, it amended the notice to make clear it was seeking only a hotel beer and wine license.
Still, on March 8, trustees authorized writing the SLA that a liquor license was a “prohibited use” in the Resort District, and on March 11, a letter signed by Village Clerk Beth Kamper was sent to the licensing division. Mr. Egosi retained Ms. Scarlato, and on May 10, she wrote the trustees requesting the board rescind the March 11 letter so the licensing process could proceed.
In an interview on Monday, Village Mayor Sandra Schroeder said trustees were prepared to revisit the matter:
“Their first application was for a tavern license, and we said, ‘No, it’s not an allowable use,’” she said. “However, they’ve had a license in the past. Besides, if you’re a guest from Oklahoma and want to order a glass of wine or can of beer and drink it while you sit on your deck, you should be able to do so.”
On Tuesday, the hotel was notified that its request to have trustees authorize a countermanding letter to the SLA, rescinding the earlier letter, had been placed on the agenda for the May 31 board meeting.
Assuming trustees sign off, the Inn’s licensing application will come out of deep freeze and resume where it left off in March.
Mr. Egosi is hoping for the best. But the ordeal left a sour taste. “The village never so much as gave us the courtesy of a phone call,” he says. “It was inconsiderate, it was inappropriate, and we’ve been severely aggravated.”