Although the opening of the season is drawing near, opening day at Cyril’s Fish House, a summertime bar and restaurant on Napeague, remains far away as it deals with a stop-work order from East Hampton Town and a restraining order from State Supreme Court. If that weren’t enough to keep the popular roadside institution shuttered, last Thursday East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky rejected a motion by Dianne Le Verrier, attorney for the owners, to dismiss 53 zoning alleged zoning violations. That case is due back in Justice Court on Monday.
Work at the site is at a virtual standstill. The area between its open-air bar and the Montauk Highway, which even on a May weekend is usually full of people, is instead filled with brick and sand, and the bar leans precariously to one side. The stop-work order came from Tom Preiato, the town’s chief building inspector, after two 2,000-gallon gasoline tanks were removed in January from the ground without town permits. The town’s zoning board of appeals recently upheld the validity of the stop-work order.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti issued the temporary restraining order, which requires the business to conform to the footprint and facilities in place in 1984, when it was much smaller.
The 53 code-enforcement charges cover several storage structures on the property, as well as patios, an awning, roofing, and an outdoor seating area, among other items, as well as a charge that work was done too close to wetlands without a permit. All of them stem from a determination made by Mr. Preiato that the various structures and activities were put into place after the town’s zoning code was written, making Cyril’s a legal but nonconforming business in a residential zone. In addition, the town code requires the entire site to undergo site plan review by the town planning board.
In her motion to Justice Tekulsky to have the charges dismissesd, Ms. Le Verrier presented a deposition from the restaurant’s manager, John Fairchild. He said the legal morass the business finds itself in is costing it money. On March 16, he said, a woman contacted him “hoping to hold her wedding reception” there, but “heard that the town was trying to shut us down.”
On May 7, Michael and Bonnie Dioguardi, who own the property, attended a session of the planning board, where one of their attorneys, Deborah Choron of the firm Jordan and Le Verrier, asked for site plan review of the patio and front bar, the area the stop-work order covered.
“You need to get a proper site plan for the entire site,” John Jilnicki, the board’s attorney, told her.
“This site plan should illustrate everything,” Eric Schantz, a planner with the Building Department, said. “That is how to get a complete application.”
“We need to see all of that,” Nancy Keeshan reiterated.
“There is not much we can do about it,” Ian Calder-Piedmonte added.
This prompted Ms. Dioguardi to go to the podium. “My husband’s family has owned the property since 1969,” she said. She talked about how, in 2013, the business had fought against hundreds of alleged violations which were all ultimately dismissed. She complained about the permitting process. “They say it takes 14 days, then it’s another 14 days. We are not deadbeats,” she said. She described the past year, when trips to the East Hampton courthouse became a weekly routine. “I can’t put my children through this,” she said, adding that she felt the town was “just stringing Cyril’s along.”
“Since we ultimately applied for the building permit and expect it to be issued,” Ms. Le Verrier said in an email yesterday, she is hopeful that the restaurant could open as early as this weekend. She would know more, she said, after a conference regarding the temporary restraining order, scheduled for today in front of Justice Franeti.
Meantime, as brick and sand remained untouched in front of the restaurant, a single car was parked outside. From within, reggae from the soundtrack of the Jimmy Cliff movie “The Harder They Come” could be heard.