Fed Up at Service Station

The former owners of the Service Station restaurant on Montauk Highway tried, but failed, to get approval for outdoor seating there, despite that being a feature of many previous restaurants at the site. David E. Rattray

Citing “constant issues with the overzealous East Hampton Village code enforcement” regarding outdoor seating and parking, Michael Gluckman and Shane Dyckman have sold the Service Station, the restaurant they opened at 100 Montauk Highway in 2016, to the property’s owners. 

The change in ownership was effective as of Monday, according to an email sent by Mr. Gluckman that day. 

Mr. Gluckman was referring to multiple citations issued by the village for the outdoor seating and tables on a patio at the property, which has housed restaurants over the years including Winston’s Bar and Grill, Nichol’s, and the Quiet Clam. The restaurant is a pre-existing, nonconforming use located in a residential district. As such, outdoor dining constitutes a prohibited expansion, according to village code. 

After being cited by code enforcement personnel, the restaurateurs, who had signed a 20-year lease for the property, applied to the zoning board of appeals for a use variance to allow dining on the patio — a use, Mr. Dyckman noted at a March 2017 hearing, that had been in practice for many years. Nonetheless, the board was adamantly against granting the variance and denied the application. 

“There always was outdoor seating there over the course of its existence,” Mr. Dyckman told the board at the March 2017 hearing. Many restaurants in the village offer outdoor dining, he said, and for its financial stability it was essential that his could, too, particularly given the importance and brevity of the tourist season. 

But the property had a long history with the zoning board, said Frank Newbold, its chairman. It had once included an adjacent house, he said, and when it was subdivided a stipulation was included that specifically prohibited outdoor dining. The property’s owner sought the zoning board’s permission for outdoor seating in 1977 and was denied, he said, and a 1986 determination included the provision that “There shall be no outside dining permitted on the property.”

“So they’ve just been doing that illegally for 30 years?” Mr. Dyckman asked, incredulous. 

That was a question for the Building Department, Mr. Newbold said. “As far as we are concerned, it’s an illegal use, an illegal expansion.” Further, he said, complaints had been registered with the village, and he described a letter and photos from an adjacent neighbor that also expressed concerns about the restaurant’s outdoor lighting and parking. 

The board was also mindful of setting a precedent: The building across Montauk Highway housing Cafe Max, which had recently closed, was undergoing a renovation at the time. Its owners “are watching this application to see if they can also apply for outdoor dining in a residential neighborhood,” Mr. Newbold said at the hearing. In 2016, the board had compelled the Highway Restaurant and Bar to remove some seating on its wooden deck and eliminate dining entirely from a smaller patio. 

After the restaurateurs’ request to legalize outdoor dining was denied, that use continued, and code enforcement officers continued to issue citations, most recently on July 28 of last year. Brian Lester, an attorney for the village, said on Tuesday that charges were still pending in East Hampton Town Justice Court, with an appearance scheduled for Monday. 

Emails to Mr. Gluckman and Mr. Dyck­man seeking comment had not been answered as of noon yesterday. Reached by telephone yesterday, a person who identified himself as Service Station’s manager hung up when asked about Mr. Gluckman’s announcement.

“The landlords will operate the restaurant as is for the time being,” Mr. Gluckman wrote. “It was a pleasure serving you and we hope to see you soon at our next venture.”