Downtown Riverhead dinner cruise unlikely

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The downtown Riverhead riverfront.

A recent proposal to run a dinner cruise out of downtown Riverhead likely won’t come to anything, according to the boat’s owner, Captain John Abbaticchio, who said the vessel probably won’t fit in the shallow Peconic River.

That and the reception he got from the town supervisor was less than welcoming, he said.

“It doesn’t seem like they want it,” Mr. Abbaticchio said Tuesday of his conversation with Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. “He seemed more worried about parking spaces. There are 15 empty stores downtown and he’s worried about parking. We don’t want to go somewhere where we aren’t welcomed.”

He also said there is another East End location interested in having the boat locate there, although he wouldn’t identify that community because the deal isn’t finalized.

Mr. Abbaticchio’s boat, called The Cabana, is 100 feet long and 30 feet wide and needs a depth of five feet at low tide. Weather had prevented Mr. Abbaticchio from measuring the depth himself, but he said the information he’s gotten from others is that the river is only four feet deep at low tide.

The Cabana, which can hold up to 366 people, already runs in Manhattan, but Mr. Abbaticchio is seeking an East End location for it, and he said Riverhead is his first choice.

“There are a lot of things I like about Riverhead,” he said. “The hotels are a big thing. We want to be able to do packages with the hotels.”

He said he also likes Riverhead’s “general attitude in wanting businesses.”

But he said in speaking with Mr. Walter, he felt the supervisor got stuck on the parking aspect.

Asked Friday about the dinner boat, Mr. Walter told the News-Review, “I’m going to wait to pass judgement on it. I’m not convinced one way or another. The last thing I would want to do is put another restaurant downtown that would impact the current restaurants or negatively impact the parking.”

But Mr. Abbaticchio said his proposal wouldn’t impact restaurants because he planned to use local restaurants to cater events on the boat.

“Instead of having one caterer get 10 parties, you could have 10 different caterers; If you have a favorite caterer you could use the place as a venue,” he said.

The boat has a full kitchen and a liquor license.

He said he already has a large following in Manhattan and those people would likely take the boat at an East End location. He said he has 45,000 people on an e-mail list for the boat. The plan for the East End venture would be to have three days a week as open events that the public can attend, and then to rent the boat to private events the rest of the time.

“We want to use it as a venue,” he said. “We will have name-brand music acts on the boat every weekend.”

Mr. Abbaticchio said he’s still hopeful he can work something out with Riverhead, but said of its chances: “On a scale of one to 10, it’s about a three.”

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