Smithtown landmarks have changed regularly throughout the centuries, but one town staple has basically remained the same for decades. The Town of Smithtown is hoping to do something about that — changing a topless bar to a place where families can enjoy recreational time on the water.
If the Smithtown Town Board’s proposed plans go through, The Oasis Gentlemen’s Club, across from the iconic bull statue, may become part of a town park through condemnation. The issue was discussed at an Oct. 27 special town meeting and public hearing via Zoom. The club sits on two lots of land that are the equivalent of a fifth of an acre. Smithtown hopes to acquire the property to use for a public park that will have waterfront access to the Nissequogue River that sits right behind it, joining up with what is now a county park slightly east of Oasis.
If all goes as planned, Smithtown will make a park swap with Suffolk County. The county will acquire the town’s Bill Richards Park next to Blydenburgh County Park, while Suffolk will hand over Paul T. Given County Park to Smithtown.
During the Oct. 27 special meeting, Peter Hans, Smithtown planning director, said the Oasis property is zoned for neighborhood business. The planning director said the structure predates an assessment done by the town in 1947. That year, it was listed as Cliff’s Tavern Barroom. Hans said the building is not on the historic sites inventory.
During the meeting, the planning director pointed to other county and town parks in the vicinity of the building and said Smithtown is updating its Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. He added that in 1989 the Town Board adopted the program which includes the Oasis parcel for acquisition for conservation.
“It is located in an environmentally sensitive area,” he said. “You have the river directly adjacent. There’s a sanitary system on the property, and if the property were redeveloped, there’s potential to remove or update the sanitary system. So, as it stands right now, we’re just in the concept stage, but there is potential to redevelop the whole waterfront around the whole area for park purposes.”
Thomas Murray, from Pelham Manor who has owned the business and property since 2002, spoke at the meeting. Murray said he paid for an appraisal in December 2017, and the town attorney countered with another around a year later. He said since then “no offer has been forthcoming since I started this process in 2017.” However, he is still open to negotiating with the town to avoid any litigation.
Murray said all taxes and bills have been made timely, the bar hasn’t caused many problems relative to other bars and there is a tenant upstairs who maintains the property.
“Residents of the area have and are employed at the business, depending on the employment for their livelihood,” he said. “I conduct business with other companies in the area, which helps improve the local economy.”
He added, “I would say going back to the Bull Creek, this bar has been a safe rite of passage for many in the area.”
The building has been used for adult entertainment since 1979 and was once named the Bull Creek Inn. Members of the Facebook group “You know you’re from Smithtown, New York if:” also remember the business having names such as Habitat and Rosebuds after Cliff’s Tavern Barroom was no longer in business.
Town of Smithtown spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said discussions about an acquisition began in 2018.