A lease agreement between the current operator of the Milleridge Inn in Jericho and the property's landlord is set to expire at the end of the year, raising concerns over the future of the historic restaurant and event space among some area residents.
In April, the Milleridge, which dates to the 1600s, was purchased by Kimco Realty, a New Hyde Park-based real estate investment trust. The public company acquired the property for $7.5 million, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
The Milleridge's operator, Owen T. Smith, 78, whose family owned the shopping and dining outfit for more than 50 years before the sale, said Tuesday he will retire at the end of the year, at which point the current lease agreement will end.
"We're working with Kimco to identify a new operator," said Smith, former chief deputy county executive of Nassau County. "We don't contemplate tearing the place down, nor do they contemplate tearing the place down."
"With his retirement, we need to find another operator for the establishment," said David Bujnicki, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications for Kimco. "That's priority No. 1 for us."
Smith said the Milleridge will continue to operate through the end of the year -- including all planned Christmas season events -- but is not accepting any new event reservations for 2016 and is refunding deposits for parties and events after 2015.
Island residents fond of the inn hope it will continue in its present form. Plainview resident Sheila Doherty, whose family has celebrated many milestones at the Milleridge, set up a "Save the Milleridge" Facebook page meant to raise community awareness of the property.
"Long Island has a long history, and unfortunately most of that has been lost," Doherty said. "We hope that Kimco will work with the community to make sure that the historical aspects of the Milleridge stay intact."
So far, Doherty's campaign to ensure that the Milleridge operates in a "similar capacity" has generated more than 10,000 online signatures on a petition, nearly 2,000 likes on Facebook, and several dozen letters to the real estate company.
Kimco also owns the Jericho Commons shopping center, which abuts the Milleridge Inn. The Commons sits on two parcels with more than 130,000 square feet of combined retail space on more than 9 acres.
Bujnicki said a Kimco representative will be meeting with the Birchwood Civic Assocation in late October to discuss plans for the Milleridge Inn in light of Smith's retirement, though that meeting won't be a public forum. The company is also making arrangements to meet with Doherty, he said.