Last Friday, just a day after earning approval from the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (HPARB) for new signage and the design of a 16-seat outdoor seating area, guests were out enjoying pizza and pasta outdoors at the new Sag Pizza on Main Street.
The problem? According to building inspector Thomas Preiato, the owners of Sag Pizza had yet to receive their outdoor dining permit from the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees — a requirement for all restaurants in the village who want to have seating on village-owned sidewalks.
On Tuesday evening, members of the village board voted, 3-2, to not grant Sag Pizza owners Michael Cinque and Laurent Tourondel their outdoor dining permit for 10 seats at the pizzeria and restaurant, located at 103 Main Street. Sag Pizza can continue to serve food at six outdoor seats located on its own property, under an awning directly in front of the restaurant.
Sag Harbor Mayor Sandra Schroeder raised the issue of patrons eating at tables on village property with Mr. Cinque and the project’s lead architect, Chris DiSunno, at Tuesday night’s board meeting, prompting an immediate apology from Mr. Cinque who said he had though his approvals from the HPARB were enough to move forward. “I thought we were all clear,” he said, calling the situation “a total oversight.”
“I made a mistake — I jumped the gun,” said Mr. Cinque.
Ms. Schroeder said she believed the owners had been advised to wait until they received their permit from the trustees. Village attorney Elizabeth Vail said she had informed Sag Pizza representatives that the HPARB was only reviewing the design of the tables when they signed off on the application for 103 Main Street, which also included approvals for two signs.
Mr. Cinque said the tables were vacated as soon as the restaurant was cited by code enforcement officers. When asked by a member of the village board about serving alcohol outside, Mr. Cinque said they were awaiting approval from the State Liquor Authority.
Ms. Schroeder remained firm in her “no” vote, citing other issues. Trustee Ken O’Donnell said he would also vote against the permit, citing parking concerns, although Mr. Cinque noted that Sag Pizza, like all restaurants under the village’s outdoor dining license requirements, would not increase its total seating, as restaurants must transfer seats from indoors to outdoors.
In his defense, Mr. Cinque said he has volunteered in Amagansett in emergency services, and also on several nonprofit boards. He is the co-owner of LT Burger on Main Street, Amagansett Wine & Spirits and formerly owned the local-favorite, Snowflake in East Hampton.
“I am just trying to do something nice for the community,” he said. “It could have been a Starbucks. I am just trying to pay rent. We have a building permit.”
Ms. Schroeder cited issues with the installation of a grease trap, which Mr. Cinque said he was unaware he had to install until trying to obtain a certificate of occupancy.
On Wednesday, Mr. DiSunno said, “I am not sure what she was talking about but the grease trap was taken care of as soon as it could have possibly been done after we were informed by Tom [Preiato]. The only complication was figuring out who was responsible for the installation – the tenant or the landlord – because that was never a part of the original scope.”
“With respect to the actual number of seats, do you have questions for the building inspector,” Ms. Vail asked the board of trustees.
After Mr. Preiato confirmed all seating would be existing and move from inside to outside, Trustee James Larocca said, “The bottom line here is this is the same number inside or outside so arguably the parking is a wash.”
He said he would join trustee Aidan Corish in voting to approve the application, provided Mr. Cinque paid his fine to village justice court. As the deciding vote, however, trustee Thomas Gardella said he would not vote in favor.
“I am not going to approve it,” he said. “Sen, to their credit, did not put seats out until they were approved. And I am sorry, but there are rules that have to be followed.”
Mr. Gardella said he also wanted to take a look at the seating plan more closely before taking a second look at the application next month. Mr. Cinque offered to facilitate a site visit. “We just want to do the right thing,” he said.
“I think you are sincere and I am sorry this happened,” said Mr. Gardella.
In other village board news, the board waived encumbrance fees for six months on five parking spaces in the rear parking lot for the construction of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. They also agreed to waive encumbrance fees for six months for a fence located behind the cinema on village roadway. The project is being led by the nonprofit Sag Harbor Partnership.
The Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps. was also approved for a new event. The first annual Sag Wag ‘n Walk Fundraiser will be held on October 21, starting at Havens Beach. Ed Downs, with the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps., noted the ambulance uses fundraisers like these to pay for its ambulances — keeping that cost out of the village’s annual budget.
The board also passed a resolution to begin a State Environmental Quality Review of its Long Wharf project. According to Mr. Corish, the liaison for village grant proposals, the village in late July submitted a proposal for state grant funding for the estimated $3 million project. Last December, the village earned $550,000 from the state to cover the cost of erecting a walkway around the wharf, for lighting and for some bulkhead replacement.
On Tuesday night, Ms. Schroeder said village trustees would host a public presentation of the Long Wharf project during its October 9 meeting.