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Hempstead Town amends law requiring restaurant windows

Attorneys and Bellmore Strip Club owner Billy Dean

Attorneys and Bellmore Strip Club owner Billy Dean argued Tuesday, May 10, 2016, that an ordinance requiring windows for all future restaurants in Hempstead Town targets Dean's application to open a cabaret in Wantagh. Above, the proposed cabaret site at 3500 Sunrise Hwy. is seen on April 13, 2014. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The Hempstead Town Board amended an ordinance Tuesday requiring windows be included in all future restaurants.

The ordinance changed a law passed in February that required clear-glass windows to cover at least 20 percent of exterior wall space. That requirement is 15 percent under the amended law.

Town Board members passed the original ordinance while citing public health and safety concerns, but offered few other details.

The amendment also changes the requirement of windows on all four walls to three walls, and excludes windows on kitchens and bathrooms.

The law goes into effect immediately and applies to all future restaurants or restaurants without a certificate of occupancy. All previous restaurants would be grandfathered in.

Businesses that do not have windows can apply for a variance, but if the variance is denied restaurants would have to comply with the ordinance.

Attorneys and North Bellmore Strip Club owner Billy Dean argued Tuesday that the ordinance specifically targets Dean’s application to open a Wantagh cabaret. Dean has a pending federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the town for denying his application for the cabaret on Sunrise Highway.

The town was contacted by several restaurants and their attorneys after the first law was passed. Restaurant owners argued the first bill was “overkill” and suggested the law should be scaled back, Town Attorney Joe Ra said.

He said the amendment was needed because the original law did not exclude private areas like bathrooms and kitchens.

The Town Board passed the amendment after complaints filed by Dean and his attorneys.

“Is this about restaurants or something else?” Dean said. “This resolution is a red herring. The town stuck their foot in their mouth and need a reason, so they used health and safety as an excuse.”

T One supporter of the law cited the 1982 robbery and rape of a waitress at the windowless Seacrest Diner in Old Westbury.

Town officials also cited the state’s liquor authority rules requiring at least one exterior window to serve wine and liquor. The state building department does not require windows in restaurants. Dean’s attorney, Erica Dubno, countered that the law makes businesses more susceptible to robberies when businesses are empty. She said the town was using selective enforcement to refuse to issue Dean a certificate of occupancy.

“The amendment corrects certain deficiencies, but it does not serve the public interest,” Dubno said. “The law is overly broad and does not say directly ... why it applies to restaurants.”

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