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Hempstead Town law requires windows in all new restaurants

Donna Tirino of Wantagh, second from right, and

Donna Tirino of Wantagh, second from right, and her daughters Angela, far left, and Grace protest outside the site of a proposed "Billy Dean's Cabaret" at 3500 Sunrise Highway in Wantagh Sunday morning March 27, 2011. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

The Hempstead Town Board is requiring all new restaurants to add windows to all sides of their buildings, marking the first ordinance of its kind on Long Island.

Attorneys for North Bellmore strip-club owner Billy Dean said the ordinance is solely targeting him to prevent opening his proposed cabaret or restaurant on Sunrise Highway in Wantagh.

Board members unanimously passed the new ordinance Tuesday after Dean’s attorneys raised objections during a public hearing. Dean has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town for denying a business license or certificate of occupancy for the Wantagh building.

Hempstead Town Attorney Joe Ra, citing the pending lawsuit with Billy Dean, declined to comment on Dean’s objections other than to say at the hearing that the ordinance has been in progress to address public health and safety concerns.

The law requires new restaurants to cover at least 20 percent of their exterior wall space with clear glass windows. Operators of restaurants that don’t comply can seek a variance with the town that will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Existing restaurants will be grandfathered in under the town’s current building codes.

Representatives of the New York Restaurant Association in Farmingdale and the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, said they were not aware of the town’s ordinance Thursday and would not comment on it.

In 2014, Dean sued the town in the Eastern District of U.S. District Court after the town denied his application to open the airline-themed Mile High Club cabaret in Wantagh that would include a dinner theater with seminude dancers or Coney Island-style entertainment including knife throwers. He has not requested an adult-use permit. The town also denied Dean’s request to open a restaurant at the site, Manhattan-based attorney Erica Dubno said.

The town is seeking to dismiss Dean’s lawsuit, arguing that the property does not qualify for a special-use permit. A federal judge has not ruled on the motion and no future court date is set.

Attorneys for Dean said the ordinance passed Tuesday was arbitrary and would expose the town to future litigation by businesses facing extra expense of adding windows. Dubno argued the ordinance would add undue work for restaurants planned in the redevelopment of the Nassau Coliseum.

“The timing of this is suspicious. Never in the 373-year history of the town have they required windows,” Dubno said. Now Billy Dean wants to open a restaurant and we have to have windows on all four walls. It’s a radical knee-jerk reaction and public pressure is behind it.”

Dean’s attorneys argued that windows are not required under the New York State building or fire code and does not apply to bars, pool halls or tattoo parlors. The new ordinance could require windows in kitchens and bathrooms, Dubno said.

There was also no clear language on curtains. Dubno said the ordinance will also lead to increased heating costs from windows and light pollution. It may also alter the franchise restaurants that have specific designs, she said.

Windows can’t be added to the Wantagh building because of its design and stone construction, his attorneys said. Dubno said they were not notified before Tuesday’s public hearing and would appeal the ruling.

“Amending the entire zoning code to target Billy Dean is bound to have grave consequences far beyond a single building in Wantagh,” Dubno said. “This is not a tool to target specific unpopular property owners. This is setting up severe damage in our case and hundreds of restaurants that want to open up.”

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