Tags Posts tagged with "Roger’s Frigate"

Roger’s Frigate

Despite the chiseled blocks of ice stationed around the village, downtown Port Jefferson was red hot last weekend during the 4th annual Port Jefferson Ice Festival, hosted by the village’s Business Improvement District.

This two-day celebration took place on Jan. 28 and 29, bringing together several local institutions, dozens of small businesses and a whole lot of ice. Roger Rutherford, Port Jefferson BID president and general manager of Roger’s Frigate, summarized the boost the festival brought to storefronts.

“This is the slowest time of the year for the business community,” he said. “This is our fourth annual, and it has really taken off and turned into something spectacular.”

Making the festivities possible required significant organizational collaboration between the BID and its partners. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce assisted by facilitating a mac ’n’ cheese crawl. 

With 12 participating restaurants, the crawl offered festivalgoers a chance to taste various cuisines from food establishments around the village. 

“This is the second year they asked us to be the administrators for the mac ’n’ cheese crawl,” said chamber executive director Barbara Ransome. “They go to 12 places. It’s four ounces of mac ’n’ cheese [per stop], so you’re talking three pounds [in all].” She added, “It’s a lot of mac ’n’ cheese.”

Thousands flocked to the village to partake in the fun, including trustee Stan Loucks who projected the weekend as one of the highest local turnouts on record.

“I have never seen so many people in our village,” he said. “The merchants were extremely happy with the crowd. They did very well this weekend, and I think it was terrific to see that many people walking around our village.”

James Luciano, owner of PJ Lobster House, reacted to the festival’s success in stimulating small businesses.

“This festival brings in a lot of business for us,” he said. “This time of year, you’re lucky to get a couple of tables for lunch and a couple of bar customers.” But, he added, “We’ve been full since we opened the door.”

Meltdown

‘The businesses were thriving, the restaurants were full.’

— Kathianne Snaden

The sizable show gave much-needed relief to storefront owners still recovering from the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost three years ago, the world and nation were shocked by the outbreak of the pandemic, leaving downtowns such as Port Jeff’s in disarray.

Indu Kaur is the owner of the Curry Club at SāGhar in Port Jefferson, an establishment that opened in February 2020, just weeks before the lockdowns. 

“We took over the business and had no idea that we were going to be shut down,” Kaur said, describing the impact of the pandemic on her business as “a huge tragedy.”

In the face of hardship, Kaur and her staff continued operations by donating meals, then reopened in the fall of that year. With a historic turnout villagewide, Kaur regarded the resurgence of the downtown businesses with delight.

“It’s so exciting to see everyone walking around, enjoying our village, enjoying the new restaurants, the new shows and our ice sculptures,” she said.

Outside Kaur’s restaurant lay a decorative ice sculpture depicting Ganesha, a Hindu deity tying into the theme of local renaissance. “Lord Ganesha is the statue that we all have faith brings prosperity, happiness and peace,” she said.

Icebreaker

Ganesha was just one of a few dozen ice sculptures displayed throughout the village. Many visitors stood and posed with the ice, which was often interactive. Some sculptures depicted animals, others tied in with the businesses for which they were custom made. 

Rich Daly, president and owner of Ice Memories, has created sculptures during each of the festival’s four iterations. He discussed the considerable effort and material that made it all possible.

“We do live carvings and have about 90,000 pounds worth of ice set up throughout town,” supplied by Riverhead-based Long Island Ice, Daly said. “Every year, we add more ice and more activities for everybody to do.”

Daly got interested in ice sculpting during culinary school, where he first received an ice carving assignment. “Once they put a chainsaw in my hands, I just never let it go,” he said.

Given how a sculpture shapeshifts and reforms during the different melting stages, the temporality and mutability of the ice medium offer both challenge and opportunity for creative expression.

“It’s a temporary art form, which makes it unique,” Daly said. “Especially on a day like today or a weekend like this, Mother Nature just doesn’t want the ice to be around,” adding, “As it melts, it just kind of changes and transforms, and it’s pretty cool.”

Daly said the process is relatively straightforward for those interested in carving ice. Blocks of ice, he said, can be acquired at most ice plants on Long Island. “It doesn’t take a crazy amount of money to buy tools,” he said. “Just have at it. Start [carving] whatever inspires you.”

Tip of the iceberg

Spring-like temperatures and melting points played a prominent role throughout the festival, with some environmentalists ringing the alarm about the threat of climate change. 

Posted along Main, a small group of protesters lined the sidewalks with signs that read: “There is no planet ‘B’” and “Be nice, save the ice.” Holly Fils-Aime, president of the local environmental group EcoLeague, discussed how the melting sculptures signal a dangerous trend. 

“The fact that these sculptures didn’t last the day because it’s so warm out here in January is a great teaching device,” Fils-Aime said.

Picketing alongside Fils-Aime was village resident Myrna Gordon, who stressed the importance of local government in identifying environmental problems and implementing science-based solutions. 

“In my own village here in Port Jefferson, I think that a lot more has to be done with environmental issues,” she said. “Having an ice festival is wonderful — bringing people to the village, helping the businesses. But we also need to focus on very, very serious issues that are happening here.”

Frozen in time

Through the ice fest, scores of people interacted with the various facets of the community. While there wasn’t an ice sculpture outside the Bayles Boat Shop, boat builders continued their work on the Resolution whaleboat project. 

“We’re in the finalizing stages of lofting,” said John Janicek, treasurer of the boat shop. After that, the buildout of the keel and stem can commence.

As the whaleboat enters a pivotal moment in its buildout process, the village is undergoing a transition of its own, moving into the post-pandemic era. With downtown thriving once again, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden gave her thoughts on these positive developments.

“It was incredible to see so many people enjoy the village this time of year,” she said. “The businesses were thriving, the restaurants were full. There were shoppers and diners, and it was great to see the comeback.”

A throng of Trump supporters rallies in front of Roger’s Frigate Feb. 2 to support a banner the Village of Port Jefferson has said is against the code. Photo by Gerard Romano

For a village that has largely tried to stay out of the national political arena, said circus has come knocking in a big way the past few weeks. A banner stretched over the second floor above a premier Port Jeff shop takes the official motto of the United States, “In God We Trust,” instead replaces “God” with “Trump,” hung to support the president during the impeachment trial.

A throng of Trump supporters rallies in front of Roger’s Frigate Feb. 2 to support a banner the Village of Port Jefferson has said is against the code. Photo by Courtney Biondo

More than a week after the owner of Roger’s Frigate building, George Wallis, hung the sign reading “In Trump We Trust,” well over 50 presidential supporters rallied in front of the ice cream and candy shop Feb. 2 to show their solidarity for the business and President Donald Trump (R). Village of Port Jefferson officials had ordered that the banner be removed, saying the owner did not even apply for a permit to hang the sign.

People at the rally came with large American and “Trump 2020” flags, and many heads were adorned with the red “Make America Great Again” caps. Several shouted slogans first heard during the 2016 campaign, such as “Build the Wall” and “Drain the Swamp.”

Supporters of the president took the village’s order to remove the banner as a sign of bias, with many saying such an act was suppressing free speech. Wallis even came down to stand alongside the protesters in support.

The rally was joined by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) who publicly showed support for the sign and assailed the village for its stance against it.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said the business could be fined up to $2,000 if they did not remove the sign five days after it received an order to remedy from the building and planning department. Though the owner could be fined for each day he keeps up the sign after those initial five, Egan said that would be determined by a village judge. He added the total of $2,000 has been thrown around too easily, and as of now they are ticketing it for the first five days, and then after another five days. 

“The goal of village code … is compliance, not punishment,” he said. 

Though Zeldin, in comments to the crowd, repeated the message the village was wrong to fine Wallis.

“How crazy is it you would have a small business owner put up a sign, and you have local elected officials fine that small business owner $2,000 a day just to say they support the president,” Zeldin said.

Village officials continued to maintain in the days before and since the rally that the order to remove had nothing to do with the message on the sign, instead that the owner had violated code. 

Wallis had hung the same exact sign back in January 2017, after Trump’s election into office. The village had ordered the sign down then as well, but it had been taken down within a few days of being put up. This time, the sign had been up since Jan. 21, but had been temporarily taken down Jan. 28 before being put back up the day before the rally. Despite the sign being briefly taken down, the village attorney said they would still have the ability to prosecute as if it were up continuously.

Roger Rutherford, the general manager of Roger’s Frigate, said he has no control over whether Wallis puts up signs on the building he owns, however he, “support[s] his right to freely express his support for our president.” 

Wallis’ intent, Rutherford said, had always been to remove the sign by the end of the impeachment trial, which was expected to end Wednesday after the U.S. Senate voted on party lines last Friday to hear no witnesses or receive any new evidence. Zeldin had been named to Trump’s legal defense team for the trial in the Senate.

The Roger’s Frigate manager said while he supports Wallis in his rights for free speech, he also understood the village’s position.

“I’m not going to knock the mayor — I believe she was showing her committed support that the law is handed down to the fullest,” he said.

Supporters of the sign have said that the village does not take the same stance with other signs in the village, pointing to banners hung by the village itself to advertise events like Paint Port Pink and the Charles Dickens Festival. 

Trustee Kathianne Snaden has said the village is not bound by the same requirements as businesses regarding banners or signs. 

A throng of Trump supporters rallies in front of Roger’s Frigate Feb. 2 to support a banner the Village of Port Jefferson has said is against the code. Photo by Courtney Biondo

“That would be the government asking the government for permission,” she said.

Zeldin also claimed the village board had some kind of bias against the president, that if the sign had said something negative about him than village officials would have supported it. 

“[They] would be paying for that sign if it was against the president,” the congressman said.

The mayor and trustees were largely disconcerted over Zeldin’s comment, saying he is using the national attention the sign has received to score political points.

“I think they’re using it as a platform,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “As an elected, that’s a real bad posture to do toward a local community and other local officials in that community.”

Snaden said she thinks Zeldin understands the village is attempting to enforce the code.

“He’s ignoring the real issue to make his own point,” she said. “He’s not a stupid man, and he’s not ignorant, he knows what the real issue is.”

Rebecca Kassay, who owns the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jefferson along with her husband Andrew, said she had also before applied for a permit for a banner in Port Jeff, and saw the process as “rigorous.” She sees Wallis’ disregard for the code as unfair for the rest of the village’s shop owners.

“It’s in interest of fairness for all business owners,” she said. “Whatever side of the aisle you’re on, it’s creating a huge rift in our community, it’s making people say things online they would not say to one another’s faces … this is not a matter of free speech, it’s a matter of a sign.”

Other businesses have tried to stay out of the mess, but the national attention has also vicariously put the light on shops who want no part in the controversy.

The Port Jefferson Ice Cream Cafe, which is located on the other side of Main Street, posted to its business Facebook page, saying it had “received numerous calls and messages regarding this.”

“We respect everyone’s right to free speech as long as it does not infringe on others and follows the law and village codes,” the post further said. “This is not up to us to decide and is a matter for the village.”

Rutherford said he was sorry that another business had got mixed up in the controversy.

“It wasn’t our intention to affect any other businesses,” he said.

The sign was still up at the location by press time, but even with the assumption it will be taken down, officials are worried they could go through the same song and dance come the presidential election in November. 

“It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last,” Snaden said.

by -
0 135
The pro-Trump sign hung up Jan. 21 was the same sign the shop hung in 2017 during inauguration. Photo by David Luces

In time for the start of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (R), a banner was hung above Roger’s Frigate candy and ice cream shop in Port Jeff reading “In Trump We Trust” on the building’s second floor. 

Barbara Sakovich, the village clerk, said the building and planning department issued a new order to remedy to the owner, George Wallis, after it was hung. The village has maintained the sign violates code 250-31D regarding signs, specifically the size and material of the sign being hung across the building’s second floor.

Frigate general manager, Roger Rutherford, did not respond to request for comment. By Wednesday, Jan. 29, the sign was still above the shop.

The clerk said she had already received some complaints as of Wednesday, but other than the violations of code, the village cannot restrict freedom of speech.

The business owner has five days from receipt of the order to remedy to remove the sign or be issued an appearance ticket and potentially face a financial penalty. Village Attorney Brian Egan said the maximum end of such a penalty could be a maximum of $2,000 per day not removed, but that would be on the extreme end for a sign violation, and could likely be less than that.

The candy store owner had put up the same sign three years ago in January 2017, during Trump’s inauguration. The banner caused several days of controversy before it was taken down. Rutherford said at the time the plan had already been to take the sign down after a few days. 

In October last year, the village board unanimously passed a resolution reducing the number of days a sign can be up before it must be removed from 30 to five. Egan said the change was to cut down on time that the board felt was too long for a violating sign to be up, especially when applying for a permit is “not burdensome.”

He added that the courts and village comply with a broad reading on the First Amendment, but municipalities such as the village have rights to impose “content neutral” regulations, such as size, material, etc. Those regulations were in place before the Frigate originally installed the sign in 2017.

Reaction on community Facebook groups was similarly divided as it was three years ago, with some congratulating the shop while others claimed they had been boycotting the shop since 2017.

Wallis has been a character in Port Jefferson for decades, and the Frigate has become a major staple within that community. The owner of the candy store, as well as the neighboring The Steam Room, has been known as a maverick in some of his past decisions on his properties, such as in 2002 when he replaced a statue of Thomas Jefferson with one of an eagle to commemorate those lost in 9/11, according to The New York Times.

Additional reporting by David Luces.