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Billie Phillips

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting and grand reopening celebration for Mario’s Restaurant in East Setauket on Aug. 18. The community welcomed back brothers Jack and Gary Tiply, along with partner Billie Phillips, for a classic reboot of one of the oldest and most notable Italian restaurants on the North Shore.  

The special event was attended by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, members of the chamber, family and friends.

The Tipleys owned Mario’s for 28 years before selling the restaurant in 2007. They reclaimed ownership in 2019 after a fire damaged the restaurant’s kitchen. Renovations have been completed and the restaurant has put pizza back on the menu.

“Mario’s Restaurant is a community treasure as are the owners. Everyone in the community can tell a story about being there for a reunion of friends or classmates, a special life event or family gathering. So many people in the area also met their spouse here. Congratulations to Gary, Jack and Billie on the new Mario’s,” said Leg. Hahn.

Pictured in first photo from left, Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, Three Village Chamber President Jane Taylor;  chamber members Carmine Inserra, Colette Frey-Bitzas, Rob Taylor; Legislator Kara Hahn; owners Gary and Jack Tipley; and chamber members Charles Lefkowitz, and Michael Ardolino.  

Located at 212 Main St., East Setauket, the restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight Tuesday to Sunday for indoor dining and takeout. For more information, call 631-751-8840 or visit www.mariossetauket.com.

Billie Phillips, the original owner of Billie's 1890 Saloon, will retake control of the Port Jefferson property on Main Street. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Alex Petroski

A decades-old Port Jefferson institution that has remained closed since a June 2016 fire could be moving toward reopening, thanks in large part to an agreement between Port Jefferson Village and the building owner.

Billie’s 1890 Saloon had to close its Main Street doors June 27 last year after a fire in the kitchen caused severe damage, and exposed several building code violations that required remedy before the business could be reopened. During an Aug. 7 village board meeting, Mayor Margot Garant and the board of trustees approved a resolution that should expedite the process.

Among the code violations — of which there were about 20 — from the village’s building department was a requirement for the installation of a bathroom that meets requirements laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act. An ADA compliant bathroom would not fit on the main level of the building, which houses the bar, according to Garant, so instead, the building owner planned to move the kitchen to the basement and turn the former kitchen on the main floor into the new restrooms.

Because of the change of use of the building, an aspect of the village code was triggered requiring additional parking spaces be added. Being that no space was available on the property for the additional parking, the building owner could instead submit a payment in lieu of parking to the village, which is allowed under the code.

Instead of squaring the requirement with actual dollars, the village and building owner Joey Zangrillo entered into an agreement for Zangrillo to deed over land in the rear of the property, which is currently used for parking, over to the village. As a result, Zangrillo will essentially own the property that houses the building, and the remainder of the parcel will be deeded to the village.

“In talking with parking committee and Larry [LaPointe, deputy mayor], we find the land to be extremely valuable,” Garant said during the meeting. “You can’t really put a price point or tag on the size of the lot.”

The deal would be subject to approval by Suffolk County prior to finalization to ensure moving the kitchen to the basement is adherent to county regulations. As a result of the deal, Billie Phillips — the original business owner for more than 35 years who was not at the helm at the time of the fire but has since entered a lease agreement with Zangrillo to reopen Billie’s 1890 Saloon — said he is hoping to be ready to reopen in early 2018.

“This is a more than fair bargain from the village’s point of view,” said LaPointe, who is also a trustee, during the meeting. According to Garant, the area being acquired by the village is used as an informal parking area, though it will now have actual spaces painted and associated with municipal meters.

Brian Egan, the village attorney, explained that the difference in owning municipal parking spaces and leasing them to property owners from the village’s perspective is that it prevents disputes, confusion and potential lawsuits when property changes hands.

“Unlike every other municipality you would assume owns the municipal parking fields, we are a patchwork in that back parking lot,” he said.

Zangrillo praised Garant and the village for their hard work in helping to facilitate the deal and get the establishment back on track for reopening.

“The village has been nothing but extremely helpful to me as a landlord,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m looking forward to many, many years of a great relationship with my tenant. I’m looking to get Billie’s up and running for my concerned friends and villagers who have been asking.”

Billie Phillips, the original owner of Billie's 1890 Saloon, will retake control of the Port Jefferson property on Main Street. File photo by Elana Glowatz
Billie Phillips, the original owner of Billie’s 1890 Saloon, will retake control of the Port Jefferson property on Main Street. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Billie Phillips

My name is Billie E. Phillips. Thirty-five years ago, my late first wife and I, borrowed every dollar we could and spent every dime we had to open up the Bar/Restaurant, Billie’s 1890 Saloon. Like every venture into the hospitality business, it was a gamble. We were very fortunate. Through the first years it became apparent that Billie’s was becoming a special place for the community, a place for stories to be told, laughs to be had, and new memories to be made.

Since then and after my sale of Billie’s it has maintained its standing as part of the fabric of the community. Unfortunately, as most of you know, Billie’s sustained a kitchen fire and has been closed since late June. Since then, the current tenant’s lease was cancelled for reasons many people have speculated about, but most people have no true knowledge of.

Rumors have spread to the point that petitions were started to save the building from being torn down. The building will not be torn down and the bar and restaurant you have grown to love will continue on in the tradition of Billie’s 1890 Saloon for as long as I have a say in the matter.

After a brief tour of the building by the landlord, I was asked if I would be interested in leasing the property, as a new lease would not be offered to individuals of the previous corporate tenant for reasons that were explained to me. After some contemplation, I felt the reasons were understandable.

At the end of the day, I could not stand by and watch Billie’s 1890 Saloon be taken over by anyone without ties to the Port Jefferson community. In a decision that was very difficult to me because of friendships I have with people connected to Billie’s, in many capacities, my family and I have assumed control of the space used by Billie’s 1890 Saloon. It is my hope people will begin to understand this could have been the end of Billie’s as they knew it, and to some it will probably still feel this way. However, to those that are skeptical, please know my family and I will endeavor always to maintain the intangibles that make Billie’s such a special place in the hearts of so many.

Billie Phillips is the original owner of Billie’s 1890 Saloon, located on Main Street in Port Jefferson.