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Popular Bethpage bar reopens, but live music on hold

The lights are back on, but the music isn't yet at Mr. Beery's, a Bethpage bar and one of Long Island's few venues for up-and-coming bands.

The bar has fought with Oyster Bay Town for 18 months over a series of code violations, including not having the proper special-use permit to offer live music.

Both sides have gone to court several times. Steve Beery, the bar's owner, said he's had music at his bar for 17 years without a problem and thinks he's being unfairly ticketed. Town officials said they're just enforcing the law and have received complaints about Mr. Beery's.

Oyster Bay wants the bar to have a special-use permit, sometimes called a cabaret license. It has issued the permit three times since 1994 and has three applications. Two more - including one for Mr. Beery's, which Beery completed April 14 - are now pending.

The town board must vote to approve the application after it is studied by zoning, planning and environmental officials. That's a process that could take months. Until then, Mr. Beery's can stay open, but without the music.

"The faster we can get the music up, the better," Beery said.

In November 2008, inspectors received noise complaints from residents who lived north of the bar, located on Hempstead Turnpike.

The officials cited Mr. Beery's for not having a cabaret license, as well as exposed wiring and water leaks in the bar, town attorney Gregory Giammalvo said. Beery would pay almost $2,500 in fines.

Last August, the bar was cited again for not having a music license, as well as problems with the bar's staircases and exit signs. Those tickets, along with tickets issued earlier this month, are still pending, Giammalvo said.

Things came to a head about two weeks ago, Beery said, after he went to court April 12 to deal with existing summonses. Town inspectors "came in and wrote me more tickets," Beery said. Oyster Bay confirmed the additional tickets were issued.

On April 13, Beery posted a message on the bar's Facebook page: "In case you hadn't heard - no more live music at Mr. Beery's by order of the Town of Oyster Bay."

That created a firestorm. Performers and longtime patrons called and wrote to Town Hall and flooded Town Supervisor John Venditto's Facebook page with angry comments.

Venditto posted a statement April 14 on Facebook saying the bar needed to meet safety requirements and that he wanted to avoid a "building tragedy."

That same night, inspectors found rotted beams supporting the floor of the bar, and Beery agreed to close until the beams were replaced.

The bar reopened April 16, after Venditto and Beery met. Though Beery's relieved he can keep the bar open, he says he won't be satisfied until his stage is back.

"When push comes to shove, my livelihood is running the tavern," he said. "My passion is the music.

"I can put my passion on the side to feed myself, but I don't want to do that."

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