Wickers Restaurant in Hicksville will close Thursday after a dispute with Oyster Bay over alleged code violations.
Town officials said owner Luis Lopez opened a basement room without proper permits and without sufficient parking. Lopez said the basement banquet room had been operating for more than a decade when he bought the restaurant in 2010 and the town didn't raise any objections until this year.
"I'm heartbroken," Lopez said. "I love this place."
Lopez, 66, a retired New York City police sergeant who also owns a Westbury private investigation and security firm, said he closed the basement after the town cited him in January for not having proper permits. Losing revenue from the four to eight parties a month that had rented the space "put me out of business," he said.
Frederick Ippolito, town commissioner of planning and development, said Lopez was at fault for violating town codes and not having proper permits.
"When he bought it there was insufficient parking on the site, and what he did was he took the restaurant and he went into the basement area, increasing the occupancy," Ippolito said.
Ippolito said previous owners "didn't use the downstairs" and Lopez needed to submit floor plans with a seating layout to get approval for a new public assembly license and certificate of occupancy.
The restaurant has been at a shopping center at the corner of West Old Country Road and Newbridge Road at least since the 1980s. Lopez said he celebrated his 50th birthday in the basement banquet room 16 years ago and that when he bought the business, he met with Ippolito and submitted what he thought were all the needed documents and plans.
Speaking in Wickers' dining room last week, Lopez produced floor plans prepared by Farmingdale-based Express Permits LLC dated Aug. 5, 2010. Those plans show the basement with a large room labeled "dining area" and on one side "bar area."
"I thought everything was good," Lopez said. "For four years I had no problem."
Ippolito, however, said Lopez was unwilling to come into compliance with town codes. For his part, Lopez said he's spent thousands of dollars trying to comply and is no longer able to keep the business open.
Lopez said everything in the restaurant will be sold.
"I'll be broke, but I won't owe anybody anything," he said.