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Northport may ban rooftop dining over congestion concerns

From left, Paul, Marie and Paul Jr. Gallowitsch,

From left, Paul, Marie and Paul Jr. Gallowitsch, stand in front of their business, Skippers Pub, in Northport, March 1, 2017. The owners are in the midst of a last-ditch legal effort to build a seasonal rooftop bar, but their efforts could be scuttled if village trustees pass a resolution that would ban all rooftop dining Credit: Ed Betz

Northport trustees on Tuesday will consider a resolution to ban rooftop dining in the village, a move that would end a push by the owners of Skipper’s Pub to add a seasonal rooftop bar.

Village officials said the resolution was not directed at Skipper’s, but would clarify the code — which they contend already bans outdoor dining.

“The outdoor dining code, as it currently exists, there’s no way that you can come to the conclusion that it would include rooftop dining,” Village Attorney Stuart Besen said. “This has nothing to do in particular with Skipper’s.”

The restaurant’s owners, Paul and Marie Gallowitsch, in July 2015 sought approval for a $400,000 rooftop addition at their restaurant in the busy Northport Harbor area at the end of Main Street. The Northport Zoning Board of Appeals denied their application in December 2015 and the couple sued less than a month later, arguing the decision was arbitrary.

The Gallowitsches, who have owned Skipper’s for 40 years, said the village is unfairly targeting them before their court case is heard. They are the only applicants in the past two years to seek a rooftop addition. They have offered to give up Skipper’s sidewalk seating and avoid outdoor music, along with other concessions.

“We were willing to be flexible with our project, but we didn’t even get the opportunity,” Marie Gallowitsch said. “Now they want to change the law, so we don’t get our day in court, either.”

Supporters of the Skipper’s Pub plan have said the expansion would be a good local addition that could draw more customers to nearby businesses.

Opponents said a rooftop bar would lead to late night noise and worsen parking congestion on Main Street.

Besen said trustees have the right and obligation to shape village code as they see fit, and that the Gallowitsches’ lawsuit against the zoning board doesn’t preclude trustees from acting in the village’s best interest.

Linda U. Margolin, the Islandia-based attorney representing Skipper’s, said the restaurant’s unique location with harbor views and its large, flat roof make it the only practical candidate in the area for a rooftop expansion.

“The conclusion is inescapably that the village is singling us out,” she said.

The Gallowitsches said they have spent $40,000 on legal fees and preliminary consulting work since first seeking a variance to allow the expansion. They called the expense an investment in pursuing their best shot at increasing business during the critical summer months.

“Northport businesses have to make it in the summer because in wintertime business comes to a standstill,” Paul Gallowitsch said. “We considered closing down for several months.”

Trustees could vote on the proposed ban as early as at Tuesday’s public hearing on the proposed law. The hearing is to be held during the 6 p.m. board meeting at Village Hall, 224 Main St.

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