Patchogue Village has repealed its five-year ban prohibiting food franchises from opening downtown after drawing interest from a gourmet chocolate maker.
The repeal allows Babylon-based Kilwins to move into downtown this fall. Village board members rescinded the ban last week in a 4-2 decision.
Chocolate maker Kilwins makes 75 handmade products and sells fudge, chocolates and ice cream. It has a retail store in Huntington and in Babylon Village, and about 100 more shops nationwide.
Patchogue Village officials say they believe they were the only municipality in New York State that prohibited such franchises. Other local governments on Long Island, such as Southold and East Hampton, have zoning restrictions on such franchises but do not ban them outright.
The ban, written as a local ordinance, went into effect in 2010. While the fast-food franchises were banned from the downtown business district, they could open in other parts of the village.
Some village officials have raised concerns that lifting the ban could attract businesses that might not suit downtown Patchogue's image. But Mayor Paul Pontieri said the risk was minimal and worth being able to attract retailers.
"If we don't do something now, we're going to lose out on some opportunities," Pontieri said. "It's a gamble. We may get something we don't want."
The Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce first suggested the repeal in May when Kilwins showed interest in expanding to the village.
"It's a nice fit. High-end retail is what's missing downtown," said David Kennedy, executive director of the chamber.
The downtown district includes That Meetball Place, The Tap Room and PeraBell Food Bar restaurants and housing such as The New Village at Patchogue rental apartments.
Kennedy, who wants the village to be known for its shops and restaurants, acknowledges that some merchants are concerned with how food franchises will affect local family businesses.
Taco Bell, Checkers and Subway are located in Patchogue, but not downtown.
A few other national franchises including Starbucks have approached the village this year about possibly moving downtown, officials said.
When the franchise ban was adopted in May 2010, the village was redeveloping its downtown and rebranding itself as a popular area for young people with new apartments, restaurants and clubs.
"We put a focus on supporting local businesses to make sure they survived," the mayor said. "It was about the protection of local businesses."
Trustee William Hilton voted against lifting the ban. He said the board rushed its decision. "We didn't do a very good job that night," he said.
John Murray, 31, who operates the Kilwins in Babylon Village as a franchisee, said he's moving forward with his plans.
"We made our application, and the mayor and trustees made a decision on what they think is best for the future of the village," Murray said. "They could have easily said 'no,' but that's the risk I take putting in the application."
Murray said he's signed a lease to occupy the former Rose Jewelers on Main Street, and the village planning board last week approved a change of zone use at the location from retail to food service.
"If all goes according to plan, hopefully we can open in September or October," Murray said.