Plans to bring Smorgasburg, a popular Brooklyn food market, to Westhampton Beach in June have stalled after opposition from several local restaurant owners.
A group of business owners spoke out against the food expo at a village board work session on May 18, and members decided to table a proposal to approve property for Smorgasburg’s use, according to trustees Brian Tymann and Rob Rubio.
Tymann, who has advocated for the weekly food expo, said Smorgasburg officials have told him that they’re no longer interested in setting up shop in Westhampton Beach, but have not yet formally withdrawn their application with the Greater Westhampton Chamber of Commerce.
Calls and emails seeking comment from Smorgasburg were not returned.
The proposal calls for a food expo to be held in Westhampton Beach every Friday beginning June 24 through the first week of September. Twenty Smorgasburg vendors and two local vendors would set up tables in a parking lot off Glovers Lane, selling a variety of foods.
A larger version of the expo features more than 75 vendors and is held on weekends from April through November in different locations throughout Brooklyn. According to its website, the Brooklyn-based company has plans to expand into Los Angeles and upstate New York later this month.
Rubio said the chamber had not yet come to a decision on whether to accept the application, and brought it to the board to approve or reject the use of a parking lot for the expo.
Rubio said that while he supports trying something new, nearly “every business on Main Street” turned out to the work session to voice their concerns, prompting the trustees to table it.
“There was such an uproar from the local community. The people on Main Street, they didn’t want it,” he said. “We were willing to try it because we thought it was a neat concept, but as of right now it’s on hold.”
Olga Bethan, the owner of Westhampton Beach-based Mambo Kitchen said in an interview that some restaurant owners fear the vendors would take their business during the summer months -- a time when sales are critical to keep businesses afloat for the rest of the year.
“They’re offering the same thing that we do, but without paying taxes, rent or employing locals. And they would be doing it at the time of the year when we most desperately need the business,” Bethan said. “It’s an interesting idea, but it’s a very dangerous experiment and local businesses would be the ones who suffer.”
Simon Jorna, who owns the Beach Bakery Cafe on Main Street, spoke out against Smorgasburg at the May 18 meeting, calling the seasonal food market, “unfair competition.”
But not all local business owners are opposed to Smorgasburg coming to Westhampton Beach. Antoinette Mundinger, owner of Main Street Sweets/Ben & Jerry’s, said in an interview she thinks Smorgasburg would be a great way to drum up business from other nearby communities.
Tymann sees it as a missed opportunity -- one that would not hurt, but help local businesses.
“It’s a shortsighted view they’re taking. I don’t think they’re thinking about what a draw a brand like Smorgasburg would bring to the village,” Tymman said. “Having a few hundred people here every week is not a bad thing. I always say, a rising tide floats all ships.”
With Laura Blasey