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East Hampton changes outdoor dining proposal after complaints

Diners eat outside on the sidewalk at CittaNuova

Diners eat outside on the sidewalk at CittaNuova in East Hampton. Credit: Citta Nuova

Concerns raised by restaurant owners have led East Hampton Town officials to temper proposed changes to regulations governing outdoor dining.

A group of restaurant owners and operators said the changes would have prohibited their ability to have outdoor waiting areas and would have hurt revenues.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the proposed changes seek to clarify existing codes about the number of seats and tables permitted outside restaurants. But one line in the law — about how the amendment applies to waiting areas, bars and entertainment — has been “misunderstood,” prompting the board to delete it.

“We understand it’s created an issue in the community,” Cantwell said. “We’re going to do what we can to clarify that and move forward.”

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who sponsored the amendment, said the proposal gives restaurants the option of increasing their outdoor seating by going through the fire marshal’s office instead of undergoing a lengthy site plan review with the town planning board.

The amendment does not change the amount of outdoor dining permitted at restaurants, which is set at as much as 30 percent of the indoor seating capacity. But a line that said outdoor dining “does not allow for” outdoor waiting areas, beverage service, entertainment or music caused dozens of restaurant operators and owners to form the group Concerned Businesses of East Hampton and Montauk. The group planned to speak against the law at Thursday’s public hearing on the issue, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Mark Smith, the managing partner of Honest Man restaurant group, which owns restaurants including Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton, said he is glad the board is planning to delete the line. But he said officials should have contacted restaurant owners before proposing the law at the start of the busy summer season.

“If they had involved people from the restaurant community initially, it probably or possibly wouldn’t have gotten to this point,” Smith said. “Hopefully there will be a tremendous showing of the restaurant and hospitality industry at Thursday’s town board meeting to raise their feelings and objections about these proposed laws.”

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