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Aug 10, 2010 6:23 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Restaurant owner will not open cafe at Poxabogue Golf Center

Aug 10, 2010 6:23 PM

Citing a breakdown in negotiations, a Mattituck restaurateur announced on Friday that he will abandon plans to open an eatery at the Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack, a move that likely means no restaurant will operate at the site this year.

Michael Avella, the owner of Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck, issued a press release saying that he had reached an “impasse” with local officials in his bid to open the Love Lane Café at the golf course, which is co-owned by Southampton and East Hampton towns. His cafe was supposed to replace the Fairway Restaurant, which closed this spring, after operating there for almost 20 years.

“We had been approached by the golf course manager to open up a second restaurant over there at their location at Poxabogue, but we have not been able to reach an agreement with [Southampton] Town, who are the owners of the property, so we are withdrawing,” Mr. Avella said when reached on Saturday.

He noted that Southampton Town was the lead party in negotiations, and officials wanted his restaurant to close in the early evening rather than at night, as Mr. Avella had requested. The Fairway restaurant historically closed in the late afternoons.

“Obviously, it’s very frustrating,” Mr. Avella said. “We’ve been at this since April of this year.”

The Fairway Restaurant cleared out on March 31, and Southampton Town has since been conducting renovations to alleviate a mold problem discovered shortly thereafter in the back of the restaurant and the basement beneath it.

Mr. Avella said the fact that the cleanup process took too long, coupled with the disagreement over the proposed hours of operation, prompted his withdrawal.

“Basically, they wanted to put restrictions on the restaurant,” Mr. Avella said. “On top of paying an exorbitant rent, which I was okay with ... they wanted to limit our hours of operation, and it went on for too long. The season is gone.”

Southampton Town officials were surprised when Mr. Avella applied for a liquor license for Love Lane Café last fall and learned that the restaurant planned to serve dinner, Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi said. Alcohol has never been served on the property.

Mr. Avella said he was asked to pay $7,500 per month or 10 percent of gross revenues, whichever was greater, in the contract presented to him by Ed Wankel, the owner of Long Island Golf Management, which has a contract to manage the Poxabogue property for the towns. In addition, Mr. Wankel said earlier this summer that he and Mr. Avella had agreed to jointly sink some $250,000 into improvements to the restaurant space.

In 2008, Mr. Wankel signed a five-year contract with the two towns to manage the property, which also gave him control of the restaurant’s lease. The restaurant lease had always been negotiated separately by the town with Fairway Restaurant owner Danny Murray, but board members said they wanted to shed the responsibility.

Mr. Wankel and Mr. Murray immediately were at odds over the lease demands Mr. Wankel made, which included extensive investment in renovations, increased rent and longer hours of operation. Mr. Murray said Mr. Wankel was demanding too much control over his business and refused the contract. Months of efforts by town officials to broker an agreement that would have kept the Fairway in place failed to break the impasse.

On Tuesday, the Southampton Town Board voted in favor of the towns taking control of the restaurant lease again and putting out a request seeking a new restaurant operator. The goal, Mr. Nuzzi said, is to maintain a “small” and “family-friendly” eatery at the site. All bids will be considered, Mr. Nuzzi said, including ones by Mr. Avella or even Mr. Murray, should they throw their hats in the ring.

After closing the Fairway, Mr. Murray moved his restaurant staff to the clubhouse of the Montauk Downs State Park golf course in Montauk, which he has operated for several years.

Mr. Murray said that he would like to submit a bid to take over the Poxabogue restaurant again if the terms offered by the town are reasonable. He said he expects, with Mr. Wankel removed from the equation, that Mr. Avella also will do so.

“I would love to put a bid in, but I’m not going to sell my soul. I hope they’ve learned that lesson,” Mr. Murray said. “As far as I understand, the next contract will have nothing to do with Wankel—it will be with the town. It will be interesting to see how many people bid on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Love Lane puts in a bid.”

Mr. Wankel, reached by phone on Tuesday morning, declined to comment on Love Lane bailing out of the agreement or on the town taking back control of the restaurant lease. He said he expected the issue to be worked out by the end of the day Tuesday.

Mr. Murray said that he had told Mr. Wankel many times in recent years that the roof on the restaurant building leaked and that the basement sometimes had a foot of water in it, leading to the extensive mold problems

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"The season is gone," Mr. Avella?

I thought you were in this for the long haul, and I assume the the Town Board members who negotiated this lease included sufficient protections for both SH and EH towns if the lease was breached, as appears to have happened here.

Was there an enforceable lease in place? Will Mr. Nuzzi and other town officials sue for lost profits on this lease?

If there was NOT an enforceable lease in place, how was Mr. Avella authorized to do the renovations?

What ...more
By PBR (4938), Southampton on Aug 7, 10 4:01 PM
What article did you read? They hadn’t come to a final agreement on the lease. All of the work being done is being paid for by the towns. I’m sure Mr. Avella had the best of intentions, but after a couple months of dealing with the BS associated with the towns and Management Company decided that it wouldn’t be worth the hassle.
By snfork (6), ORIENT on Aug 8, 10 10:10 AM
Gimme a break. he had a sweetheart deal with the management co to turn the place into a fancy nighttime spot where he could make more money from selling booze. The Town - who owns the property - clearly didn't want that. So when his sweetheart deal got more expensive, he walked away. everything else is a smokescreen.
By littleplains (305), olde england on Aug 9, 10 1:05 PM
Such strong opinions! So little information.
By JBBOB (7), Hampton Bays on Aug 11, 10 2:58 PM
Tangled web is right . Typical fashion is Avella will sue the towns and win . Stay tuned ....
By ELECTRICUTIONER (65), east islip/montauk on Aug 7, 10 6:21 PM
Chris Nuzzi, the Southampton Town Board liaison to the restaurant and golf course, said the town will put out a request seeking a new restaurant operator this fall. The goal, he said, is to maintain a “small” and “family friendly” eatery at the site. All bids will be considered, Mr. Nuzzi said, including ones by Mr. Avella and Dan Murray, the former operator of the Fairway Restaurant, should they vie for management of the establishment.

Is he freaking kidding? That's exactly what they had ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 7, 10 9:18 PM
3 members liked this comment
no soup for you
By CaptainSig (712), Dutch Harbor on Aug 7, 10 9:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Chris Nuzzi is the joke-
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 8, 10 6:20 AM
$7500 a month? is this rent justified?
By Draggerman (924), Southampton on Aug 8, 10 6:36 AM
It does seem a bit steep in the current economic climate.

90k per year and they are suprised they applied for a liqour license? how else are they supposed to make the rent?

$30 club sandwiches?
By C Law (348), Water Mill on Aug 8, 10 9:36 AM
3 members liked this comment
The sooner the Town of East Hampton gets out of this mess, the better.
By voter (33), Amagansett on Aug 8, 10 8:26 AM
As usual the incompetents in government at the local level, East Hampton Town, and Southampton Town, just like their counterparts in the State and Federal governments put their ego's, nepotism and misguided direction into play and "We, the People " are, ultimately solely accountable.
I would like to commend 27 East News for this article, I had been cursing the "powers that be" for the short sighted, obvious money grab perpetrated on the local residence of both towns. I also vowed never to ...more
By rrc1049 (63), Bridgehampton on Aug 8, 10 10:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
In addition to my earlier rant regarding the T.of S.H and E. H Towns incompetence, I missed an important point; in this instance government wants it both ways, to charge rent and mandate business policy i.e. liquor license, hours of operation. In addition to being incompetent slackers in their lives, I suppose our elected officials are accomplished restaurateurs

By rrc1049 (63), Bridgehampton on Aug 8, 10 11:31 AM
A tangled web indeed.

To clarify the post above, in light of snfork's comments, please consider these previous articles and possible facts (not sure if we will ever know what has gone on behind closed doors).

This 1/20/10 article summarized things at the time:

http://www.27east.com/story_detail.cfm?id=256596&town=Sagaponack&n=Poxabogue%20restaurant%20faces%20ouster

Near the bottom of p. 1:

"Mr. Murray said he believes Mr. Wankel, whose business is based ...more
By PBR (4938), Southampton on Aug 8, 10 12:39 PM
PS -- Just found additional articles using "Fairway Restaurant" as the search terms. The usual list of related article at the top does not do a good job of listing all previous articles IMO.

This 3/30/10 article:

http://www.27east.com/story_detail.cfm?id=268162&town=Sagaponack&n=Fairway%20Restaurant%20at%20Poxabogue%20closed%20for%20good

says near the bottom of the page:

"After negotiating annual leases for the restaurant space with Mr. Murray for four years, ...more
By PBR (4938), Southampton on Aug 8, 10 12:51 PM
Pingback...
http://longislandgolfnews.com/restaurant-owner-will-not-open-cafe-at-poxabogue-golf-center/
By LongIslandGolfNews.com (1), New York on Aug 8, 10 1:04 PM
What agreement did the NcGintee administration make with SH at the time the complex was purchased and began operating under the two Towns joint ownership? I believe, based on what was reported in the media, that EH handed over full operating responsibility to SH at he time. Since January East Hampton Supervisor Wilkinson has been trying to extricate East Hampton from the position he inherited on this matter from his predecessor. He has shown enough sense to try toget EH out, seeing it has no say ...more
By formertbm (76), east hampton on Aug 8, 10 1:48 PM
This is exactly the time for "back room negotiaions". The string of comments show exactly the reason that all this should be a private deal between land lord and prospective tenant. Most of you do not have experience in these affairs and your comments regarding the deal are laughable. Government should never be in this position in the first place. 90,000 per year means to me that the rent needs to be 5% of my gross sales. That means I would need to do 1.8 Million in gross sales. I have a seasonal ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Aug 8, 10 7:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
Yeah, what he said! Even putting rent at 10% of gross sales the numbers would be tough to achieve, especially without serving alcohol. Bloody Marys and Mimosas can bump up check totals pretty quickly!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 9, 10 12:26 AM
Thank you Bob Schepps for your insights on the financial realities here, and why the Towns should never have been in this position in the first place.

However -- the Towns ARE in this position, and we residents and taxpayers do IMO have the right to know the details of all leases/contracts in force, in order to assess how our tax dollars are being spent, and perhaps wasted.

Editor, please request all relevant documents from EH and SH Towns under the Freedom of Information laws.

This ...more
By PBR (4938), Southampton on Aug 9, 10 11:22 AM
Hmm... somehow the previous owners managed to get by for years under these terms. They were run off the property by Wankel - who wanted to make more money by opening a fancy place and jacked the rent and conditions. SH and Nuzzi had no power over that - because the Town mistakenly gave Wankel too much operating authority. What they did have power over was the liquor license, which was clearly the lynchpin in the scheme to drive off Dan. No one wanted this operator or this kind of restaurant ...more
By littleplains (305), olde england on Aug 9, 10 1:11 PM
except... Dan Murray got by just fine for years without serving liquor or dinner. Remember, these "numbers" are the inflated ones that Wankel was hoping to get from bringing in his buddies. It's comical that they are now blaming the town - when Wankel knew all along that he had to get a liquor license. Why would the town do him any favors when he ignored the outcry from citizens and elected officials not to kick Dan out?
By littleplains (305), olde england on Aug 9, 10 5:14 PM
Well done, idiots.
By johnj (1011), Westhampton on Aug 9, 10 9:19 AM
You kicked a good man out and now you got what you deserved. A moldy situation.
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Aug 9, 10 10:06 AM
Once again, government interference destroys healthy commerce and we are all the losers. Way to prevent job creation.
By Blackjordan (15), Sag Harbor on Aug 9, 10 10:50 AM
Bring back Danny Murray and let's eat!
By Nancy Q. (27), east Hampton on Aug 9, 10 4:00 PM
Gotta love these politicians.

Did Dan pay $7500 per month?
By Draggerman (924), Southampton on Aug 9, 10 5:32 PM
First of all, The course and restaurant does NOT straddle the two towns. It is in Southampton totally, BUT more to the point it is in the incorporated village of SAGAPONACK and under ITS jurisdiction. Yes, I agree, bring back DAN. Do not have dinner hours with a liquor license. Give him a lease in the "cleaned up" space at maybe 10% more than he was paying. It was a terrific accommodation for breakfast and or lunch at a GOLF course, which is what it was supposed to be!. Not one more silly night ...more
By DasK (26), on Aug 9, 10 6:48 PM
That place never made a profit selling burgers and ice cream cones. It's a golf course and as such should be allowed to serve alcohol. The arrogant town officials are to blame for this. Now it will sit empty and get all moldy again!
By Walt (288), Southampton on Aug 9, 10 7:20 PM
Why was Dan there for 20 years if he was not making a profit. It is NOT a golf course. It is a community recreational facility, and doesn't need alcohol. In any event, it will never have it!
By DasK (26), on Aug 9, 10 7:28 PM
Funny, i remember going there for at least 10 years... I guess Dan Murray is a millionaire who just stayed open while losing money to help us all. what an idiotic statement - of course the place made money - the new guy and Wankel wanted a liquor license to make MORE money and couldn't get his way.
By littleplains (305), olde england on Aug 9, 10 8:24 PM
Instructions for how to make a profit in the restaurant business:
Keep food costs low by serving cheap, low quality and frozen products.
Keep labor costs low by employing illegal aliens and paying people “off the books”
Charge 8.625% sales tax but don’t report actual sales to the State (easy to do if you don’t have a POS system that can be audited)
Never ever spend money on building maintenance, repairs, new equipment, cleaning products or pest control.
Make the waitstaff share ...more
By JBBOB (7), Hampton Bays on Aug 11, 10 1:00 PM
Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck is a great place. Southampton is the loser in all of this!
By artizt101 (29), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 10 7:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
PBR yes the residents do have a reason to know what is being offerred and negotiated however it would better serve the public to do it privately until the deal is sealed. As the landlord there are questions I have for the town board regarding their real estate investment stratagy. Are we (the town and its residents) a non for profit or do we plan on having money left over from our investment in Poxy and other properties? If we plan on a profit what is our vacancey tolerance? In other words the properties ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Aug 10, 10 7:58 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By JBBOB (7), Hampton Bays on Aug 10, 10 5:09 PM
>

YES!

What a mess.

Dan's return will be right up there with the story of Tate's.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Aug 10, 10 7:58 PM
Many of these posts miss the facts. The Towns put out a request for proposals requiring a minimum bid of 90,000 a year or 10% of the gross whichever came out higher. The same request required bidders for the golf management to include the food service after the existing lease expired. No bidder asked to have "all or nothing" the Towns required it. In the proposal awarded by the Towns clearly provides and states that dinner service would be provided and the hours of operation were specifically listed ...more
By interesting (1), SMITHTOWN on Aug 10, 10 8:02 PM
Thank you Will James for the update, but it is still not clear what the various management contracts/leases here are.

Please post a PDF of Mr. Wankel's 2008 management contract, as a starting point for further discussions, or explain why this is not possible.

Who are the signatories to this contract/lease, and did the Town Board(s) fully authorize it in all respects?

Were there any contingency and/or penalty clauses contained therein to protect the Town(s) in case the ...more
By PBR (4938), Southampton on Aug 11, 10 6:03 PM
Oh the horror, a dinky little overpriced greasy spoon filled with mold goes down. And, what is that the politicians are involved?
By package4 (39), hampton bays on Aug 15, 10 9:04 AM
The mold problem arose after the property was vacated by the previous operator. If it had been filled with mold, the Suffolk County Health Dept. would have shut it down.
As for you other statements about it, did you ever eat there?
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 15, 10 6:42 PM
Your blind devotion to the previous tenant is absurd. Danny himself admitted that the roof leaks were going on for years. It is not SC Health Dept's responsibility. Their job is to ensure safe food preparation not building inspection. Any conscientious operator would have fixed it himself or insisted that the landlord (SH & EH Towns) fix it. Place the blame where it belongs.

And yes, I have eaten there and it was awful.
By JBBOB (7), Hampton Bays on Aug 17, 10 12:39 PM
The mold was in the basement, due to a sink that was removed. Sorry you had awful food there. It seems as though you are in the minority as far as complaining of horrible food. The vast majority of people loved the place.

You said it though "It is not SC Health Dept's responsibility. Their job is to ensure safe food preparation not building inspection." Obviously the mold was not a health concern and didn't affect food preparation.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 17, 10 6:26 PM
PBR - did you realize you are only 1 comment away from 480!? You gotta come through with one of your "please respond to my post of tuesday at 10:36am" messages!
By package4 (39), hampton bays on Aug 15, 10 9:05 AM
Authorize Supervisor to Sign Mutual Release with Long Island Golf Management, Inc. as it Relates to the Food and Beverage Service at Poxabogue Golf Center.

WHEREAS, LIGM and the Towns have been unable to agree upon mutually acceptable terms under which the new food and beverage provider would operate;

RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of Southampton hereby authorizes the Supervisor to execute a mutual release with Long Island Golf Management, Inc., as it relates to the ...more
By JBBOB (7), Hampton Bays on Aug 15, 10 5:46 PM
The town (as usual) blew this one from the start. They should have given Lenny "the tick" Ackerman approval to expand the course and add lights in exchange for the residential development rights. Instead they coughed up millions to buy something they have no business owning and can't properly manage.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Aug 19, 10 11:13 AM
The Hampton Classic, Horse Show, Bridgehampton