Patchogue's chronic parking shortages — a byproduct of the South Shore village's transformation as a successful hub for pubs and bistros — have led officials to consider banning new restaurants and taverns for up to 18 months.
The move, urged by downtown businesses worried that customers will go elsewhere if they can't find a place to park, would give the village time to develop parking fields and garages before new restaurants and bars can open, officials said.
The village board Monday voted 6-0 to schedule a Jan. 27 public hearing on the proposed moratorium, Mayor Paul Pontieri said Tuesday. The board may vote after the hearing. The moratorium, which would apply only to applications for taverns, nightclubs and restaurants, would take effect later this year, he said.
"People want to come into town to have a meal, but they can't find parking so they go someplace else," Pontieri said in an interview.
Patchogue has 42 restaurants, taverns and nightclubs, and village officials have been approached by developers interested in adding more eateries and bars, he said.
The village, which has about 2,200 public parking spaces, is planning to add hundreds of parking slots in new fields and garages scattered through the downtown area, officials said.
The moratorium has the support of downtown businesses, said David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce. Many restaurant owners are seeing potential customers cancel reservations because of parking shortages, he said.
Temporarily blocking new bars and restaurants would buy time for the village to add parking to accommodate customers and employees, he said, adding that the village has 11 vacant storefronts that could be attractive to developers seeking to open eateries and pubs.
”As successful as Patchogue is, there’s a lot more growth to be had,” Kennedy said. “Any time there’s an open space in Patchogue, I hear the rumor that a restaurant is interested in opening there.”
Patchogue had been struggling with vacant storefronts about 20 years ago before a wave of development brought new apartments, shops and eateries in recent years. The transformation was capped two years ago when Blue Point Brewing Co. moved its operations from River Avenue to the former Briarcliffe College site on West Main Street.
Unlike other businesses in the village, Blue Point, which has a small eatery and tasting room, has its own parking lot. Patchogue officials said it's up to the village to help other bars and restaurants by developing new parking areas.
Pontieri said taverns and restaurants generally employ more people than retail stores, putting more pressure on the village to build parking areas for those employees as well as customers.
He estimated that on Friday and Saturday nights, restaurant and bar workers use 350 to 400 parking spaces, leaving fewer than 2,000 public parking spots for customers. Patchogue officials are considering employee-only parking lots to ease parking for customers.
Potential locations for new parking include the 6th District Court parking lot, space behind the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on East Main Street and a site on West Main Street across from the brewery, Deputy Mayor Jack Krieger said.
Patchogue has faced challenges such as land acquisition and the cost of building parking garages, Krieger said. A 300-space garage at the courthouse could cost about $6 million, he said.
“Empty space in the downtown is not available for something as mundane as parking. People want to build things on those locations like housing and stores,” Krieger said, adding a moratorium “will give us a little breathing room. With every new restaurant that comes in, you gotta have 100 new parking spaces to accommodate them.”