Owners: Fire Island club's fate uncertain

The Pavilion complex at the Pines, Fire Island

The Pavilion complex at the Pines, Fire Island burned Monday night with more than 400 firefighters responding to fight the blaze. (Nov. 16, 2011) (Credit: Steve Pfost)

One day after a fire destroyed the Pavilion, a venerable Fire Island Pines nightclub, its owners vowed to replace the charred remains with a new building -- but stopped short of saying a new club would be part of the plans.

The owners' announcement that the Pavilion's future is uncertain spread quickly across Fire Island, where the club is a decades-old icon of the community's gay culture. While the current Pavilion building has stood for only a few years, the nightspot's roots in Fire Island Pines date to the 1970s.

Matthew Blesso, who co-owns the Pavilion through Manhattan-based FIP Ventures with Andrew Kirtzman and Seth Weissman, said the partners plan to rebuild, but might not recreate the nightclub.

"The Pavilion is a place that is extremely important to the community, but right now, we're evaluating all of our options," Weissman said.

Bob Howard, a Fire Island Pines resident since 1975 and the operator of the Pavilion in the late 1980s, said the closure of the club would come with "a big hue and cry," but added that the owners need to do whatever is financially sound.

"There will be a lot of moaning about it because the Pavilion is considered to be the granddaddy of discos in the gay world," he said. "But time goes on. Nothing stays open forever."

The Pavilion hosted a popular decades-old "High Tea," an evening gathering where people "sit there with a cocktail, watch the harbor, the boats coming and going," resident Wayne Heyser said.

The news about the Pavilion's uncertain future came as investigators returned to Fire Island Pines to continue looking into the cause of Monday night's fire, which gutted the complex that included the Pavilion and the LaFountaine buildings.

FIP Ventures purchased most of the commercial property in Fire Island Pines last year for a reported $17 million. Robert Weber, director of operations for FIP, said the company hopes to reopen a new building by next summer.

"They're going to build as aggressively as possible," Weber said. "This is the nucleus of Fire Island Pines."

The fire appears to have started between the Pavilion and LaFountaine buildings and spread to a propane business, but the exact cause has not been determined, officials said. Suffolk police and the Brookhaven fire marshal's office are investigating.

Nicole LaFountaine, whose family owns the LaFountaine Building, said it housed seven tenants, including the Sip N' Twirl Disco, a pizza bistro, real estate agencies and a clothing store. She said plans for rebuilding, which could be complete by May, are under way.

Doug Teague, owner of the CF LaFountaine propane business, declined to comment. Tanks at the gas facility heated, exploded and shot into the air during the fire. No one was injured by the fire or gas tanks.

Property owners in the 1-square-mile community of 600 houses and 100 condos arrived throughout the morning Wednesday to check on their homes and businesses.

"A lot of people have been coming out," said Joseph Geiman, Fire Island Pines Fire Department commissioner.

P.J. McAteer, owner of the popular Sip N' Twirl, said his business would be back.

"The Pines is an institution, we are a community and we will rebuild," he said.

Fire Island Pines

  • A hamlet on the barrier island of Fire Island, in the Town of Brookhaven
  • Originally the site of a Coast Guard station built in 1876
  • Development started in 1952
  • One square mile in size
  • 700 homes -- 600 houses and 100 condos
  • 4 homes used year-round by about a dozen residents
  • Seasonal summer population reaches as many as 4,000
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