The owners of Drift 82 are seeking approval to extend a COVID-19 provision that has become common practice in the restaurant world.
Tuesday evening, the Village of Patchogue Planning Board held a public hearing regarding the Drift 82 owner’s application for a 40-foot by 50-foot tent in their parking lot from April 15 until Oct. 15.
Last year, the board approved the Patchogue River restaurant’s tent application as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged business. The tent has enabled Drift 82 to host larger private events, from weddings and bridal showers to fire department gatherings and fundraisers. Owner John Sarno told the board these catering opportunities provided a lifeline during the pandemic and will aid the business next year.
“It’s vital to our business,” Sarno said Tuesday evening. “We all know what’s going on when you go buy eggs or anything else in the supermarket, how much are you paying with inflation?
“There’s not much money to be made in this business right now … so anything that we can do to keep our business alive and sustained, we’re trying to do,” he added.
Contested outdoor expansion
To plead his case for the continuation of the COVID-era crutch, Sarno pointed to the outdoor dining still in existence along Main Street in the village.
But earlier in the meeting, planning board member Dennis Logan regarded the half-year temporary structure as an inappropriate expansion of the restaurant.
“So you opened this business, you knew the number of seats you could have in it, you know what the parking requirements were, and you basically spit in the village’s face and residents face for all these years by expanding beyond the means and bounds,” Logan said.
“And we’ve been very patient during COVID, but now you have, basically — and you will hear from the neighbors tonight — what is basically a nuisance in the neighborhood for everybody who lives in the area,” he continued. “Just to say you’re going to put the tent back up and nothing is going to change, that’s unacceptable.”
“You rented a property that was roughly 1,200-square-feet, I’m just guessing off the top of my head,” Logan continued. “And now you want to amplify that space by another 2,000-square-feet, which just defies logic as far as I’m concerned.”
As Logan noted, several residents spoke on what they deemed a nuisance, especially regarding the volume and duration of live music coming from Drift 82.
Sarno said he and his team have decided Drift would only host duos and trios for acoustic musical performances, should they decide to have live music at all next summer.
Other residents extolled the benefits they reaped from the outdoor setup, especially regarding Sarno’s efforts to host community events.
On the parking front, things are complicated.
The restaurant has an agreement for valets to park diners’ cars in the South Shore Boat Yard, Sarno said. Hogan said previous signage near the restaurant indicated overflow parking may head to the Brookhaven Town’s Sandspit Marina lot neighboring the restaurant. Sarno countered that he implemented new signage informing violators they will face fines for illegally parking in the town lot.
“Regardless of the tent being up, it’s still a destination spot,” Sarno said. “People are still going to come down here. We’ll still have the valet. We’ll still use the lot. And there’s still going to be congestion. It happens time and time again on the North Shore and South Shore of Long Island.”
After the hour-long public hearing, the board unanimously voted to adjourn the application, which will remain open.
Top photo: File photo of a wedding at Drift 82.