Update: The current tenant of the Meetinghouse Creek Inn in Aquebogue will be operating the restaurant through Labor Day, 2015.
Tom Drake said he and property owner Alex Galasso reached an agreement Wednesday to extend the lease. Mr. Drake has operated the restaurant, which is located on the Lighthouse Marina property, for 25 years.
Mr. Galasso told the Riverhead Town Board last week that he is seeking to renovate the property and find a new tenant.
Mr. Drake said he’ll be running the restaurant in the meantime, until Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015.
Original Story: The owner of the Meeting House Creek Inn building in Aquebogue is planning to close the restaurant in a few weeks to lift the structure and expand the second floor as a way to ease the impact of future flooding, according to owner Alex Galasso.
Mr. Galasso, who owns the property, is proposing to raise the building about four feet, he told the Riverhead Town Board during a public work session Thursday.
“We’re trying to get as much storage space as we can upstairs,” he said. “We’ve been flooded numerous times.”
He said he doesn’t consider the work to be an “expansion” of the restaurant.
“We have a 163-seat restaurant there, which has been there for 45-plus years,” he said. “Our intent is not to expand the business. It’s going to remain a 163-seat restaurant.”
The restaurant also will have a new operator when it reopens, but Mr. Galasso declined to specify whom, despite some gentle nudging from Supervisor Sean Walter.
“You don’t want to disclose who it is yet? Mr. Walter asked.
“Not yet,” Mr. Galasso responded.
However, Phil’s Restaurant in Wading River is already advertising a move to the marina under the name Phil’s Watefront Bar & Grill.
Phil’s owner, Phil Marcario, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Galasso said the goal of the work is to transfer storage units from ground level to an expanded second floor of the building to avoid flooding, he said.
He later told a reporter restaurant had 30 inches of water in the dining room following Sandy.
“It ruined refrigeration, ice makers and our stoves,” he said. “The building needs to be raised to FEMA specifications.”
The restaurant’s application calls for expanding the second floor from the current 282 square feet to 1,824 square feet.
The first floor is 4,771 square feet, and the footprint of the structure would not change, although they plan to raise the building about four feet, Mr. Galasso told the board.
Lighthouse Marina, where the Meeting House Creek Inn is located, also plans to reconstruct 350 feet of bulkhead, for which it has already received approvals from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the town Conservation Advisory Council.
Because the work is considered an expansion of a “pre-existing, non-conforming use,” it requires a special permit, which requires a public hearing before the Town Board, according to town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree.
Pre-existing, non-conforming means that the use doesn’t conform to its current zoning but that it existed before zoning was enacted in the early 1960s, and is thus “grandfathered” in.
“It looks nice,” Mr. Walter said of the plans. “It will be a nice addition.”
Mr. Galasso said in an interview that no lease had been signed with the prospective new operator.