Smithtown is preparing to buy the topless bar that has operated for decades across from the statue of town mascot Whisper the Bull on West Main Street.
The $815,000 purchase, approved unanimously by the town board at its Thursday meeting, will end years of litigation between the town and the owner of the Oasis Gentlemen’s Club, setting in motion town plans to convert what had been a source of embarrassment into a municipal park.
"This is something that will benefit all the residents of Smithtown, something which I can tell you for years here as an elected official, people were always asking me about," said Supervisor Edward Wehrheim.
Howard Greenberg, a lawyer representing the bar’s owner, called the deal "fair and equitable." The club has stayed open through most of the pandemic, though with reduced hours, he said, and it will close in the middle of June. That event, Greenberg said, will mark "the end of an era of adult entertainment in Smithtown."
Oasis occupies a fifth of an acre of land near the Nissequogue River and town and county parks. Town officials have contended in court that the bar violated zoning ordinances forbidding adult businesses from operating close to parks and residential districts. Club lawyers countered that the zoning was unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.
Years of legal wrangling took a turn in 2020 when the town announced it would begin eminent domain proceedings to acquire the property. That legal action, often long and expensive for both sides, was averted after negotiations between Smithtown Town attorney Matthew Jakubowski and Oasis representatives led to an agreement two weeks ago, Wehrheim said. Litigation "never worked. We took a different tack," he said.
Councilman Thomas McCarthy said the Oasis site would offer parking and river access to visitors. He envisions a park geared toward kayaking and canoeing, replacing an "eyesore" with a "nice beautiful entrance to the town."
In a related move, the council Thursday approved a measure to facilitate transfer of Bill Richards Park, to the south, to Suffolk County; in return, the town will take over Paul T. Given Park, near the Oasis, consolidating its parkland.
The squat, two-story Oasis building, which has drawn visitors for beers and exotic dancing for more than 20 years, is likely headed for demolition, Wehrheim said.
Pastor and civic activist Amy Fortunato said in a text message that the coming closure had "been a long time coming … Good riddance to a lowlife, degrading blight."
Smithtown has two other adult businesses, on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge and Veterans Highway in Commack.