The Town of Oyster Bay has filed a lawsuit to shutter a popular Massapequa nightspot that residents say has ruined their neighborhood with noise, fumes, traffic and invasions of privacy.
Lawyers for the town alleged last week in filings in State Supreme Court in Mineola that Smuggler Jack's has violated numerous town codes and its approved site plan by allowing outdoor dining and alcohol consumption, having about 115 people on premises one night last month when its legal maximum is 72, and using boat slips for commercial purposes.
Other alleged violations include permitting continuous motorboat engine idling, excessive boat traffic and allowing smoke to emanate from the location.
On Monday, the Nassau County Health Department issued the restaurant citations for improperly maintaining its garbage and prepping food in an unapproved area.
The restaurant opened last summer on Forest Avenue, with boat slips in the back where a canal leads to South Oyster Bay.
Owner Noel Cannon, who also runs the Massapequa bar Paddy's Loft, did not respond to requests for comment but his attorney, Edward Ross of Garden City-based Rosenberg Calica & Birney LLP, said Smuggler Jack's has done nothing wrong.
"We absolutely dispute the town's allegations," Ross said. "The notion that it's a nuisance is particularly outrageous given that it's an upscale, family-oriented restaurant."
Smuggler Jack's is among a growing number of South Shore bars facing noise complaints. Freeport Village, for example, has set fines for exceeding decibel levels.
Neighbors say Smuggler Jack's has driven them to the brink, and at least two said they have put their houses up for sale to escape. Town officials say they received a petition with about 50 resident signatures complaining about the restaurant.
'Killed our paradise'
"They've killed our paradise," said Richard Ziesig, 60, who owns a company that sells broadcast television equipment and can see the back of the restaurant from his kitchen. Ziesig said smoke from cigarettes, cigars, tiki lamps and boat motor fumes have forced him to keep his window closed from the sea breeze. The worst part, he said, is the noise from conversations, boats and dishes.
"The sound travels incredibly well over water," Ziesig said. "It's rendered my yard -- especially in the evening on the weekend -- useless."
Residents complained that customers' cars clog the streets and sometimes block their driveways. "I can't even park in front of my own house," said John Bonamassa, 63, who does vehicle repair at an airport.
David Choe, 32, an apparel merchandiser from East Meadow, said his parents, who live next door and now look out at the restaurant's garbage, are trying to sell their house, but the smells and noise scare off buyers. "It used to be a very good neighborhood," he said.
Ross dismissed neighbors' complaints.
"It's simply not occurring," Ross said, though he added that they were voluntarily trying to resolve the matter with the town. The restaurant agreed last week to a temporary stipulation -- an agreement between the two parties signed by the judge -- that it would not play music outside or inside if windows or doors were open and that it would close the outside seating at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.
On Tuesday night, outdoor speakers played music at a low volume while inside, music was louder and a door was open. After 10 p.m., one bartender told customers they could take their drinks outside, and several did, sitting at a table and on the dock and conversing in voices that were audible across the street.
Town Supervisor John Venditto said the town is more interested in getting the business to comply with what it was permitted to do when the town approved its site plan in 2010.
"It appears as though it has been transformed from a neighborhood business to a nightclub of sorts," Venditto said.
The court stipulation was meant to be a second chance to avoid further action, but the town is still getting complaints, Venditto said. "Based upon preliminary observations, they're not doing well."