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Search for Beach Hut replacement blocked in Suffolk

A judge has temporarily blocked Suffolk from picking a concessionaire to replace Beach Hut at three county beaches.

Beach Hut at Meschutt Beach County Park in

Beach Hut at Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays in 2015. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy has obtained a temporary court order blocking officials from picking a concessionaire for three county beaches to replace Beach Hut, which pleaded guilty to shortchanging Suffolk and Babylon Town on sales tax and fees.

State Supreme Court Justice David Riley issued a show-cause order Thursday stopping Suffolk from moving forward with its bidding process until a March 26 hearing on the dispute.

The county parks department is looking to select operators for concessions at Smith Point, Cupsogue and Meschutt county beaches.

Kennedy brought the lawsuit after the parks department refused to comply with his subpoena demanding that officials turn over all records connected to the bidding process as part of a comptroller performance audit. Parks officials also were seeking to quash the subpoena in court.

Kennedy is also seeking a declaratory judgment authorizing him to move forward with the audit. Kennedy is seeking documents and real time access to the deliberative process.

Aides to County Executive Steve Bellone say Kennedy only can conduct an audit after the bidding process is complete.

The county originally had hoped to choose new concessionaires by March 31, then sought to move up the selection date to Friday after Kennedy sought to hire an outside lawyer. Parks officials are looking to complete a contracts by May 1 so the concessions can begin operations on Memorial Day weekend.

The Babylon Town Board, which also fired Beach Hut, voted in a special meeting Friday to approve 20-year contracts with replacement concessionaires at four town parks and beaches. Town officials say the new contracts will boost revenues to a total of $104,000 for the coming year.

For the oceanfront Cedar and Overlook beaches, Babylon chose Island Time Hospitality Group, which also operates Dublin Deck and Harbor Crab in Patchogue.

Where Beach Hut paid the town a flat fee of $20,000 a year, the new contract calls for $50,000 in the first year and $70,000 annually by the end of the agreement. The new operator also will pay 7.5 percent on gross revenues over $60,000 for the entire contract.

For Tanner Park in Copiague and Venetian Shores in Lindenhurst, the town selected the firm Katch at Babylon Beaches.

Where Beach Hut paid $24,000 as a flat fee, the new operator will pay $54,000 the first year, decreasing to $43,000 by the end of the agreement.

While Beach Hut was paying 7 percent on gross revenues over $60,000, Katch will pay 7.15 percent the first year and 10 percent by the end of the contract.

CORRECTION: Due to information provided by Babylon Town officials, an earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that the group Katch at Babylon Beaches operates T.J. Finley’s in Bay Shore.

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