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Schafer’s

Finding a parking spot in Port Jefferson is often difficult, but a valet parking service could change things. File photo

By Alex Petroski

Despite concerns raised by members of the community, a valet parking system backed by restaurant and other business owners as well as elected officials in Port Jefferson Village is slated to begin this coming weekend.

The plan has progressed thanks to the efforts of the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District and Pro Port Jefferson Association, a group assembled to act in the interest of restaurant owners in the village. During a contentious public village board meeting in early June, members of the community spoke out against and in favor of the plan after Tommy Schafer, owner of Schafer’s and Tommy’s Place, and John Urbinati, owner of The Fifth Season restaurant, and others revealed the plan to the public.

At the time the village board had not been involved in the planning or implementation of the service, but because the designated staging area for car drop off is on village property, they had to approve the plan, which they had since the June meeting. The plan will proceed as a pilot with the possibility of cancellation at any time at the discretion of the village, according to Mayor Margot Garant.

The route valets will take to park cars at once the system is implemented. Image by TBR News Media

The service will function pursuant to a contract between the BID and the Port Jefferson School District. The municipal parking lot on Maple Avenue across the street from the fire department will be used as a staging area. Cars will be dropped off at that spot, parked at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, then picked up from the same spot. The service will cost drivers $7. The pilot program will take place during the summer months until Labor Day on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 11 p.m.

Valets will take cars from the lot behind Ruvo restaurant and bar, take a left on Maple Place, a right on Main Street, a right to cross over Barnum Avenue and a left into the high school lot. To return cars to the staging area for pick up, valets will exit at the opposite end of the lot onto Old Post Road then take a left on Main Street and a left onto Wynn Lane to re-enter the municipal lot. Valet drivers will not use Barnum Avenue, Tuthill Street or Spring Street, three residential roads which were discussed as possible routes during the June meeting, according to Garant.

Marge McCuen, a longtime village resident, spoke out against the proposed plan during the meeting because she didn’t want excess traffic on Tuthill Street, where she and her husband John live, during the night hours. She called the service an “invasion” of a residential area for the purpose of making money, a disturbance of quiet streets, and also objected to a lack of public hearings or advanced notice for residents.

“The whole thing is, they don’t seem to care about the people,” she said in a phone interview.

Schafer and Urbinati each expressed excitement for the possibilities at their respective restaurants now that customers will presumably have an easier time parking.

“I think it’s a great joint venture that the businesses and the village itself have been able to come together and make this project work,” Urbinati said in a phone interview.

Garant said resident concerns from the June meeting were taken into account in mapping out a pick up and drop off route, and the board aimed to have as little additional traffic on residential streets as possible.

The program is cost neutral for the village, and should revenue exceed the initial investment by Advanced Parking Services, the valet company in agreement with the BID, 25 percent of profits would go to the company and the remaining 75 percent would be split between the school district and village.

Above, members of Friday Night Face Off after the show on Aug. 5. Photo by Michael Tessler

By Michael Tessler

Admittedly my definition of fun has always been a bit out-of-sync with my fellow millennials. What do I mean by that? Well, my perfect evening entails a glass of scotch whiskey, a small group of friends and an invigorating game of Risk (yes that board game from Seinfeld). We wouldn’t just play with normal rules either, we’d add elements of intrigue, diplomacy and politics. It’s quite literally the nerdiest way someone could spend an evening BUT there are plenty of valuable life lessons to be learned from the game: camaraderie, collaboration, but most importantly … never fight a land war in Asia! (Napoleon and Hitler probably wish they had gotten that memo). So yes, I’m not your average 23-year old, not by a long shot.

In the name of faux investigative journalism, I decided to venture outside of my comfort zone and into the sprawling mini-metropolis that is Port Jefferson Village after dark. Together with my partner-in-crime and honorary investigator, Sarah, we began our journey. Being an avid “Pokémon trainer” Sarah insisted we visit Port Jeff’s biggest Pokémon location, Harborfront Park.

For those who don’t know, Pokémon GO is a mobile game that connects the real world with the digital one, allowing people to “catch” animated Pokémon by visiting real places across the country and globe. It’s a whole lot of fun and rewards players for exercising by giving you special access to rare Pokémon. With that being said: Madam Mayor, I strongly urge you to establish a Pokémon Preserve near Harborfront Park so that we can protect the rare indigenous Pokémon that call Port Jefferson home!

Honestly though, it was pretty wonderful seeing all those families and young people outside. After some 15 years of hibernation, the children of the ’90s have finally reemerged in search of pikachus and pizza!

Afterward we made our way over to Theatre Three. This wonderful local theatre offers not just mainstage musicals and concert series but is also home to an excellent troupe of improv artists. Each week they put on a tremendous live show known as Friday Night Face Off (FNFO). These professionally trained comedians break up into two teams and battle each other in various improv games. Styled similarly to the “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” I can guarantee it’ll leave you in stitches! Having seen their shows well over a dozen times, I can tell you that each performance is unique and filled with new hysterical material. Although the show isn’t child friendly (16 years old and up please), it is the perfect way for adults to end or begin an evening! There’s even a bar right in theater so you can enjoy a drink during the performance.

After a great show we visited several of Port Jefferson’s late night hot spots. Schafer’s was a real treat. Complete with a DJ, dance floor and all of the latest party equipment, it felt less like your conventional bar and more like an upscale club in Manhattan. Following some dancing, catching up with old friends and an impromptu freestyle rap battle (I owe my skills to “Hamilton the Musical”), it turned out to be a pretty wonderful evening. Port Jefferson, while a quaint village by day, truly transforms into a popping late-night paradise when the sun goes down. There’s no age limit to the fun as there’s a venue for everyone!

Now I’ve already made my plans for next weekend! Anybody wanna join me for a rousing game of BATTLESHIP? No? That’s alright. I strongly advise taking a visit to beautiful Port Jefferson during one of these beautiful summer nights!

Michael Tessler is the Special Projects Manager for TBR News Media, a former political consultant and Disney cast member and mostly unsuccessful Pokémon trainer.

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One of the tables at last year’s event beautifully decorated for the fall. Photo from PJCC

The annual A Taste of Port Jefferson is back and is better than ever. Now in its 8th year, the one-day event will feature food samplings and wine and beer tastings from more than 35 local shops and restaurants.

There are only two requirements — come with an empty stomach and be prepared to feel full from the delicious foods!

Presented by The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, the event, for ages 21 and over, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101A E. Broadway overlooking beautiful Port Jefferson Harbor.

As in previous years, guests are invited to be judges and vote on Best Food and Drink. “Keeping the event fresh, we also have a new contest this year — voting for favorite dessert. We also have many new vendors, which is very exciting,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber.

Participating businesses will include C’est Cheese, The Village Way, Tommy’s Place, The Fifth Season, The Arden, Ruvo, The Amazing Olive, The Pie Pizzeria Napoletana, Penntara Lao-Thai Catering, Smoke Shack Blues BBQ, Uncle Giuseppe’s, Z-Pita, Messina Market & Catering, Cornecopia Cafe, Pasta Pasta, Costco, Custom Cafe & Deli, Danfords Wave Seafood Kitchen, La Parilla, Port Jeff Lobster House, Schafer’s and  Smoke Shack Blues BBQ.

Dessert samplings from A Cake in Time, Chocology Unlimited, La Bonne Boulangerie and Starbucks will also be available. Wine and beer tastings will be offered by Mora’s Fine Wines, the Port Jeff Brewing Co., Vine 2 Vine, Brewology295 and the L.I. Pour House.

Sponsors this year include Long Island Creative Contracting, UnitySEO Solutions, Yelp, Times Beacon Record Newspapers, Arras Agency, Jolie Powell Realty, AXA Advisors, St. Charles Hospital, Live It Up!, Smoke Shack Blues and Port Jefferson Live.

Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. For further information, call 631-473-1414 or visit www.ATasteofPortJefferson.com.

A restaurant is proposed for the old Suffolk County Water Authority building, above. The owner of Schafer's restaurant says the development will block the view from his building's deck, which can be seen in the background. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A proposal to build a restaurant at the old Suffolk County Water Authority building on West Broadway has one neighboring businessman crying foul, saying the establishment would block his customers’ view of the harbor.

At a Port Jefferson Planning Board meeting on April 16, representatives for property owner The Crest Group LLC and President Enrico Scarda shared plans for the roughly 1/4-acre lot on the north side of the street, right off of the harbor. According to Port Jefferson Station-based engineer Allen Bernhard, the restaurant would include a second-floor outdoor deck with a footprint almost the size of the building itself — just shy of 2,000 square feet. The deck would start on the side of the building and wrap around to the north side, facing the harbor.

At the public hearing, Bernhard said the existing building at the site, which would stay, would block most of the deck when viewed from the south “so it’s not interrupting views.”

Even with planning board approval, the restaurant would still need a permit for outdoor dining from the village board of trustees.

The deck was the main point of contention during the meeting. Attorney Zachary Beriloff, of Ronkonkoma-based Gruenberg Kelly Della, who is representing Schafer’s owner Tom Schafer, said the dining area would actually block the outdoor “observation deck” at Schafer’s restaurant, on the other side of West Broadway.

“It obstructs the view of the water from across the street,” Beriloff said.

But attorney Linda Margolin, of Islandia-based Bracken Margolin Besunder LLP, countered that the issue was a matter between private landowners, not something regulated by the law.

“The issue for this board is not whether the view from Mr. Schafer’s observation deck is important to him,” she said. “I’m sure it is. The question is whether the view from Mr. Schafer’s observation deck is a view of particular importance to the public. … That’s not a public view of significance.”

Beriloff also took issue with three variances the zoning board granted for the project, on the restaurant’s size, parking area and distance from other restaurants. He said Schafer was not properly notified of the proposal and asked the planning board to hold off on any decisions until the matter is resolved.

The board adjourned the hearing, which will resume on May 14.

Aside from the addition of the deck, the proposal does not call for many changes to the outward appearance of the site. Bernhard said the owner would keep much of the original architecture but add large windows on the north side of the building. He also said the owner would plant some trees where possible.

The proposed restaurant could be in limbo for a little while, however, because of a parking issue at the site.
The old water authority building sits at the edge of the Brookhaven Town marina parking lot, with some of the town parking spaces immediately to the north and west of the site and the lot’s entrance to the east. Brookhaven Town has plans to cede control to Port Jefferson Village of those roughly 30 nearby parking spaces in a deal the two municipalities arranged to make up for a deficit of spaces at a mixed-use project up the road, at the historic First National Bank of Port Jefferson. The town owns the bank building and the building next door on East Main Street that used to house the tax receiver’s office and is selling the property to a developer who will put in retail space and apartments. But as the details on that project are not finalized, the marina parking spaces at the harbor are not yet officially in the hands of the village.

There are no other parking spots near the water authority building, possibly linking the fate of the restaurant proposal with that of the parking space deal between the town and the village.

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