Rowdy Hall opened in Amagansett on Tuesday night, its facade painted black in defiance of the East Hampton Town Architectural Review Board, which had turned down the business’s request for black paint last month.
As the painting progressed, the business was hit on Nov. 8 with a stop-work order and a violation for not having a building permit. An anonymous call had tipped off Kevin Cooper, the town’s director of ordinance enforcement, but passers-by had been noticing the transformation of the Main Street restaurant all week.
“They said it was primer. Doesn’t matter,” Mr. Cooper said by phone last Thursday. “They got a ticket for no A.R.B. approval and another for having no building permit.”
Mark Smith, an owner of the popular restaurant, which moved to Amagansett after 25 years in East Hampton Village, declined to comment, but indicated that he wasn’t seeking to pick a fight with the town.
A member of the A.R.B. also declined to comment.
What might seem to be a simple issue — the color of the building — has been emotionally charged, with standing-room only crowds at A.R.B. meetings as Rowdy Hall’s application was being discussed.
The restaurant needed the board’s approval to paint the outside of the building because it is in both the commercial district and the Amagansett Historic District. However, Rowdy Hall and the A.R.B. haven’t been able to agree on an appropriate color since the end of the summer, when the business first requested to paint the facade black, the same color as at the East Hampton Village location.
Rowdy Hall has been in front of the A.R.B. three times so far, and earlier this fall got approval for its sign. On Oct. 26, however, the board ruled that a black facade was not in keeping with the historic district standards and denied the application.
Rowdy Hall’s lawyer, Jon Tarbet, said last Thursday that his understanding was that the stop-work order did not mean the restaurant could not hang its sign, and indeed, the sign was hung this week.
“We’ve been told that we can finish the trim too, because parts of the building are not protected,” he said. “We’re definitely not looking to do work that is in violation of the stop-work order and we’re currently working with the town to find out exactly what that means.”
“They can’t do anything interior or exterior, except repairs. That’s what a stop-work order is,” Mr. Cooper said last week. “If their refrigerator breaks, they can fix that.”
Rowdy Hall is scheduled to answer for the tickets in town justice court on Dec. 4.
Mr. Tarbet has already said that the owners of Rowdy Hall would seek to appeal the A.R.B.’s Oct. 26 denial. With that determination officially filed on Monday, he can now file an Article 78 appealing it with the New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead.
None of this changes the fact that the building is now black, and Jeff Bragman, a lawyer and former town board member, called into the town board meeting on Tuesday to urge the board to go to the Supreme Court in Riverhead to get an injunctive order to force Rowdy Hall “to paint the front of that building a neutral color.”
“You cannot tolerate this kind of activity without tanking the enforceability of your code,” he said, accusing the town board of being too cozy with Honest Man Hospitality, which owns Rowdy Hall and the eateries Nick and Toni’s, Coche Comedor, La Fondita, and Townline BBQ. He pointed out that the all-Democratic board was celebrating its electoral wins at Coche Comedor the night before Rowdy went black. Peter Van Scoyoc, the outgoing town supervisor, was also spotted at the “soft opening” for Rowdy Hall on Monday night.
“In terms of Honest Man, I guess they own five restaurants. How many restaurants are open in East Hampton this time of year? And one of them was occupied by the Republicans. What does that leave us?” Mr. Van Scoyoc said after the town board work session. “Rowdy Hall has always been the gathering place for Democrats for decades, for decades. I’m disappointed as to process and what’s happened, but in terms of what is an appropriate response? I think the town will take all necessary and adequate reactions relative to the question at hand.”
“Mr. Bragman likes to connect dots,” he continued. “He even suggested that the departure of the assistant attorney was somehow . . . connected. It’s just ridiculous.”
David McMaster, who frequently butted heads at the A.R.B. meetings with Mr. Tarbet, recently resigned from the town attorney’s office.
With Reporting by Christopher Walsh