The East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals, meeting on Friday, was adamantly against allowing an outdoor patio at the Service Station restaurant to continue to be used for dining, as it has been for many years.
The restaurant, at 100 Montauk Highway, has had several names and owners over the years. Located in a residential district, it was built before the zoning laws were enacted. The owners of nearby properties housing restaurants — the Highway Restaurant and Bar and the now-defunct Players Club — have been before the board in recent years, and the board took a similarly hard line last year when it compelled the former to remove some seating from its deck and eliminate dining entirely from a smaller patio.
Shane Dyckman, a partner in Service Station, which opened last year, told the board that “there always was outdoor seating there over the course of its existence,” and that the partners hoped the use could continue. Many restaurants in the village offer outdoor seating, he said, adding that for the financial stability of his business it was essential, particularly given the brevity of the tourist season.
Service Station is open daily and serves lunch and dinner year round, Mr. Dyckman said, “and we give a nice, inexpensive option to all the local families.” The owners signed a 20-year lease on the property, he said, and “we really created a nice, special, local eatery.” To the best of his knowledge, there have been no complaints about the outdoor seating, he said.
But, said Frank Newbold, the board’s chairman, “there is a history with the zoning board . . . with this particular property.” The lot once included a house, and when it was subdivided, Mr. Newbold said, a stipulation was included specifically prohibiting outdoor dining. In 1977, the owner sought permission for outdoor seating and was denied, and a 1986 determination included the provision that “there shall be no outside dining permitted on the property.”
“So they’ve just been doing that illegally for 30 years?” Mr. Dyckman asked, incredulous.
That was a question for the building department, Mr. Newbold said. “As far as we are concerned, it’s an illegal use, an illegal expansion.” Further, there have been complaints, he said, describing “a very articulate letter accompanied by pictures” from an adjacent neighbor who also expressed concerns about the restaurant’s outdoor lighting and parking.
The board is also mindful of precedent. The building housing Cafe Max, a restaurant across Montauk Highway from Service Station that recently closed, is being renovated, Mr. Newbold said. Its owners “are watching this application to see if they can also apply for outdoor dining in a residential neighborhood,” he said.
“But they were dining for 30 years out there,” Mr. Dyckman repeated of his own site. That didn’t make it right, said Lys Marigold, the board’s vice chairwoman. “It’s very clear in the code, and we’ve been very strict with the Highway Restaurant,” she said.
The hearing was closed, and the board will issue a determination at a future meeting.
The board announced one decision. Michael Eisner, the former chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, was granted variances to legalize the construction of a shed at 99 Main Street, a parcel that does not contain a principal building; to let the shed remain at 320 square feet (250 square feet is the maximum allowed for accessory structures other than garages), and to allow it to remain within the rear and side-yard setbacks. Mr. Eisner owns the adjacent lot at 97 Main Street, which does have a principal structure, and the parcel in question is landscaped with paths and gardens. The shed is used for storage of bicycles, outdoor furniture, and other property, and is not visible from the street.
In January, the board granted Mr. Eisner variances to construct an addition to the house at 97 Main Street that will result in more floor area than the maximum permitted under code. In that determination, Mr. Eisner was also granted variances to allow alterations and legalize patios, a slate walkway, and a garbage bin situated within required setbacks.