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Jun 2, 2015 11:15 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

VFW Post Hopes To Move Into Westhampton Beach Digs By End Of Month

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Pos 5350 will move to Westhampton Beach by the end of June. ALEXA GORMAN
Jun 3, 2015 1:06 PM

A thin layer of dust covers the bar and remaining shelves inside the old Finn McCool’s restaurant on Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach. The wood floors are unpolished, some are missing nails, and the kitchen area is a skeleton of its former self.

Bill Hughes, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5350, stands next to the bar, looking over a site plan for his outfit’s new headquarters. He then predicts that a building permit could be issued by Westhampton Beach Village at the end of the month, allowing members of his group to finally move into their new, unfinished home at that time.

“We’ve gotten positive feedback so far,” Mr. Hughes said, explaining that the post still needs final approval from the village’s planning and zoning boards, in addition to the Suffolk County Department of Health and State Liquor Authority, before officially moving into its new headquarters. “We’re optimistic that we’ll have a building permit by the end of June.”

The leaders of Dayton-Soehlke-Ohlhorst Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5350, which announced its move from its original home on Montauk Highway in Quogue to Westhampton Beach last spring, have spent the past year trying to secure the new location and also raise the necessary funds to cover still-needed renovations. The VFW sold its property at 125 Montauk Highway in Quogue for $1.38 million in November, using those proceeds to buy its new building in Westhampton Beach. Plans call for the 4.4-acre property in Quogue to eventually be subdivided into four residential lots.

Mr. Hughes noted that his group is scheduled to go before the Westhampton Beach Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday, June 18, to secure a variance so that illegal improvements made to the building by the prior tenant—including the addition of a covered porch on the second floor—can be finished by the VFW. Then, on June 25, the group will also seek a change of zone, from restaurant to a fraternal organization, from the village’s Planning Board, in addition to site plan modifications.

Westhampton Beach Village Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan said that, so far, feedback from both boards has been favorable and that he expects both to sign off on the project at their respective meetings, making it plausible for the VFW to move in by the end of the month.

“That is possible,” he said, noting that the Suffolk County Health Department was expected to be the last to issue its approval. “But they can get some work done in the meantime.” That work includes sanding the floors and fixing a leaky roof that damaged one of the building’s bathrooms, according to Mr. Houlihan. “They just can’t start changing the layout of the building until the approvals go through.”

The VFW is still leasing its old property in Quogue, but that contract expires on Monday, July 13—a fact that underscores the urgency of the move.

To that end, members are continuing to raise funds to cover the costs of the renovations, originally predicted to be around $100,000. Mr. Hughes said he is uncertain how much will be needed to complete the remaining projects, which include moving a divider wall so that it is closer to the bar and opening up the meeting space.

He explained that in addition to the renovations to the hall’s interior, kitchen equipment needs to be purchased, though members are planning to bring items from their headquarters in Quogue. Mr. Hughes said he should have a better idea of the cost once the transition is complete.

The VFW will hold a fundraiser this coming Saturday, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Boardy Barn on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, to help fund the remaining renovations. (A Valentine’s Day fundraiser had to be canceled due to a lack of ticket sales.) Tickets are $65 each and can be purchased by calling Mr. Hughes at (631) 653-9898.

Mr. Hughes said they picked the date, June 6, because it marks the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, during World War II. It’s also drill weekend for the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, whose members are based at nearby Gabreski Airport.

Part of the reason for the VFW’s relocation is that leaders of the group, which now boasts about 125 members, are hoping to attract new members from the Westhampton air base.

“I’ve been approached by a few members already,” Mr. Hughes said. “We have an aging membership, but once we bring in the young men and women, we’ll have that broad spectrum.

“As the Veterans of Foreign Wars, we have to be efficient in how we do this,” he continued. “I may have one or two living veterans who reside in Quogue right now—that’s not how it was when [the post] first started.”

Even though its new home is in Westhampton Beach, Mr. Hughes said the mission of his organization remains the same. In addition to honoring and assisting local veterans, the group will continue to remain involved in community affairs and still plans to rent out its headquarters for military and youth functions.

“The premise hasn’t changed,” Mr. Hughes said.

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Boy, have you got that right, cupsogue! I'm still trying to understand how this outfit could have sold four and a half prime residential acres in Quogue, and bought this sorry commercial property on Old Riverhead Road -- where two or three restaurants had failed previously -- and not have a fortune left over.

But no, they don't even have enough money left over to cover repairs and renovations, the need for which should have been apparent and been a factor in their purchase negotiations. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jun 7, 15 10:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Certainly there are unanswered questions inherent in this story, but your statement about "two or three restaurants had failed previously" reveals a inherent misunderstanding of how the VFW has operated over the decades.

Or, are you just taking a veiled shot at William Hughes being being a unsuccessful Republican candidate for public office? (I would think that you would be all for that -- more GOP failures.)
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on Jun 7, 15 12:58 PM
The failure of a number of restaurants in the same location would depress the value of that property. The operation of the VFW is irrelevant, unless you're suggesting that they have made bad financial decisions for decades.

It is my understanding that it was one man, rather than a committee making the decisions regarding these transactions. Your politicizing of this saga is your choice but if the shoe fits...
By VOS (1230), WHB on Jun 7, 15 1:36 PM
VOS has it right, Mr. Wheeler. I meant only that the prior business failures should have depressed the property's value, just like the need for substantial work on the building.

It's not ALL about politics -- just most of it.

Of course, if you want to take a closer look at the ill-advised dealings of Bill Hughes and the VFW leadership, then consider that, instead of overpaying for the Old Riverhead Rd. property, they might have been able to get space on the air base itself, thereby ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jun 8, 15 3:04 PM
Quogue property was worth closer to $2m
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Jun 7, 15 4:55 PM
... this deal never made sense from day one. Total debacle. Four homes slated for the Quogue VFW - tragic. Town should have fought hard to buy this - using Community Preservation Fund money - to preserve community.
By William Rodney (558), southampton on Jun 8, 15 7:53 AM
It makes perfect sense when you consider the fact that Hughes is an idiot
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 10, 15 7:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
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