The Patchogue Village Board is considering placing an 18-month moratorium on any new restaurants.
The board Monday voted to set a Jan. 27 public hearing on the proposal. That’s the board’s next meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at Village Hall.
The move has almost everything to do with the village’s parking crunch. Legacy retail shops that might have employed a handful of people are being increasingly replaced by restaurants — with much larger staffs.
“There is a great concern that a possible six new storefronts will become available in the next 12 months that will probably be marketed as bars/restaurants,” said Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri.
There’s already nearly $3 million in place to start planning and designing a multi-level parking garage in the lot behind the county’s courthouse on West Main Street. But the village needs county cooperation to get moving.
Monday night, Pontieri said the village has been waiting for word from Suffolk County on whether or not the garage can move forward on what the mayor described as the ideal location
He expressed frustration the county’s approvals haven’t happened sooner.
“The only way [the length of the moratorium] gets changed is if the county within the next year or so gives us the approval for the garage, then we can roll that back,” Pontieri said.
If the county doesn’t cooperate with the village, the board will then turn to a potential, other location on which to build a garage, such as the Church Street lot, Oak Street lot or Terry Street lot.
Building in any of those lots would create their own stresses.
“The courthouse is the least disruptive place, because there is going to be disruption,” said village trustee and deputy mayor Jack Krieger. “No matter where we do it, the lot is going to be closed for like 18 months. The courthouse offers us the least impact on the businesses.”
Eric Rifkin, the owner of Bobbique, which opened 14 years ago on West Main Street, told the board the parking problem is threatening food-focused locations not looking to hire DJ’s for nightlife.
“Restaurants, especially food-focused ones, are finding it difficult to compete” he said. “On weekends people are changing what they do,” with a demographic skewing much younger as people in their 20s seek out club-like scenes.
And parking issues are playing a role in that.
“The 50-year-old who used to visit me [14 years ago] is now 64,” Rifkin said. “He’s not driving around for 20, 30 minutes looking for a parking spot.”
Also the vice chair of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce’s restaurant committee, Rifkin said he supports the proposed moratorium.
“We need to catch up,” he told the board. “We need to regroup and continue to take this village to new places that other villages emulate.”
Pontieri has previously resisted calls for restaurant moratoriums, such as the one Babylon Village instituted in 2018. In Babylon, only existing restaurants can turn into other restaurants. No dry spaces can be converted to wet uses.
“You know my position on moratoriums,” Pontieri said in notes provided to GreaterPatchogue after Monday’s meeting. “I do not believe we should infringe on the rights of property owners. But this situation makes me look at it differently.
“This is about the sustainability of our downtown over the long term.”
This is a developing story. Check back for additional reporting.