The buildout of JT’s Hideaway in East Patchogue has hit a major snag.
Owners Justin Tempelman and Brenin Burgess are going to miss the entire summer season for their planned restaurant at the old Beach House at Morgan’s Marina.
The two started work this February, but within weeks were slapped with a stop-work order from Brookhaven Town.
But, they had no way of resolving their issues.
Restaurants aren’t even allowed at marinas under current Brookhaven Town zoning.
Meanwhile, the Town Board, led by councilmen Neil Foley and Dan Panico, has been hammering out new zoning laws for the dozen or so private marinas in town in order to bring any existing bait shops, snack shacks, residential units or restaurants into compliance.
Tempelman and Burgess have been in limbo waiting for those new regulations to get passed.
The Town Board is set to vote on the proposed Marine Commercial districts this Thursday at Town Hall in Farmingville.
“The town has made me the poster boy for the code change,” said Tempelman, who also own and operates JT’s on the Bay and JT’s Café, two popular eateries in neighboring Blue Point.
Tempelman said if he never took over the existing restaurant, which has been in operation since 1989, it would have been business as usual this summer at Morgan’s Marina.
“Now there’s no legal mechanism for us to get a permit; we were never going to open this summer,” lamented Tempelman. “Boating is the oldest form of transportation along with the horse, why haven’t these issues been addressed years ago?”
As of now, marinas operate in the town code’s J2 business zone, which doesn’t allow for restaurants, for example. The new code will allow marina owners to appeal for special permits for uses other than docking boats.
“Each marina has a very different situation,” said Foley. “Some have restaurants but no [certificates of occupancy]. Or some are residential and are acting as a marina. We wanted to be proactive at the town level and wanted them to come into compliance.”
Tempelman and Burgess signed a lease in February for the restaurant that looks out over the mouth of Swan River.
“This is a diamond in the rough,” Tempelman told GreaterPatchogue in February, in one of our most read stories of 2018. “I kept saying, it’s such a great hideaway.”
Hence the name: JT’s Hideaway.
The two had planned some interior changes to the old restaurant and were looking to open in April.
The locals especially were excited for the new neighborhood hangout off Grove Avenue.
Then the problems arose, starting with the stop-work order during the renovations. The two owners later applied, and were approved for, an alteration permit. But that permit is no use without Planning Board approvals to operate a restaurant, Tempelman said.
But there’s more.
The property’s sanitary plans also need to be re-drawn and re-approved by Suffolk County because somewhere in the restaurant’s near 30-year history the bathrooms were moved to different locations.
“So now we’re this close to getting the zoning we need … we’ve been asking the town since April to review our paperwork because we knew we were going to have issues,” said Tempelman. “Then two weeks ago they drop a bomb on us that the sanitary plans don’t match because the bathrooms are in a different location.
“One of the hardest things to get is health department approvals and wastewater management,” he continued. “That will take at least another two months until we get approvals. We’ve got hundreds of thousands invested, hundreds of thousands lost in revenues, jobs lost, tax dollars lost. It just hasn’t been a very business friendly environment to operate in.”
Still, Tempelman says he takes responsibility for the missteps, despite the bad luck of ending up in marina purgatory because of the pending legislative changes.
“This has been a learning process; I’ve never been in a situation like this,” he said.
But the partners have no plans to abandon the project.
“There aren’t that many locations like this left on Long Island,” he said.
As for the new code, Foley said he’s confident it will win Town Board approval on Thursday.
“It was purely just timing,” he said of JT’s snafu on the water. “This code has been in the works for the last 2 and 1/2 years and Justin had just gotten this property this year, and he can’t open because he’s not zoned correctly.
“When we pass the code on Aug. 2 it will help Justin [and other marina operators] out because the restaurant will be in the correct zone. Then they will be able to operate legally and it’s just a matter of timing, of getting permits and CO’s that they’ll be able to obtain.”