After some delay, partly because of litigation, the Mill Hill Realty Corporation was in front of the East Hampton Village Design Review Board on Tuesday, looking for site plan approval for its Toilsome Farms Restaurant and Brewery. The proposed restaurant and microbrewery, which would be located at 17 Toilsome Lane — and has been dubbed a “beer hall” by neighbors who oppose it — would seat approximately 129, with 60 seats outdoors and 69 indoors, and require a 61-space parking lot.
To put that into perspective, the nearby restaurant on Race Lane that most recently was occupied by Buttero, and was well known for decades as the Laundry, is about 3,000 square feet and has a total occupancy of 124 patrons.
A rendering of the proposed 9,700-square-foot Toilsome Farms structure shows a white, modern-barn-style building with a dark metal roof. Roughly half of its square footage comes from an existing building that will be renovated. “Toilsome Farms” is written in black letters on a cream-colored fence that runs like a headband atop a portion of the structure. A silo for grain storage would be just shorter than the main structure, and decorated with a large “T.F.” The brewery portion of the building is roughly a quarter of the total area; a covered patio takes up another 954 square feet. (The patio seats would be taken inside during the cooler months.)
Customers would enter a U-shape driveway from Toilsome Lane; a large tree there would be removed to create the entrance. Parking spaces would line the eastern edge of the property and wrap in front of the main building.
A conventional septic system is planned, designed to handle 3,236 gallons per day, based on 105 occupants and kitchen use. While the restaurant plans show 129 seats, not including staff, the flow rate for outdoor seats is calculated at half the rate as indoor seats, per county rules.
Apart from approval required to renovate and enlarge the existing buildings on the two parcels, which would be combined into one 5.8-acre parcel, the D.R.B. would have to establish that a restaurant use and light manufacturing use (for brewing beer) are allowed at the location. Alex Balsam, an attorney representing Mill Hill, said the beer would primarily be sold at the restaurant, “but we don’t want to box ourselves into that — we expect some degree of local wholesale activity.”
“Not national though?” asked Robert Caruso, the chairman of the D.R.B.
“Certainly not from this site,” said Mr. Balsam.
Sherrill Dayton was the only member on the board to offer any extensive comments. “This is the first of a kind in the village, and I have some concerns about the residential neighbors, the traffic, hours of operation, and the village should have a written determination as to the use of this facility,” he said.
Billy Hajek, the village planner, noted in a memo that “the proposed uses are permitted in the manufacturing industrial zoning district,” but Tom Preiato, the village building inspector, would ultimately have to rule on the use. “I am of the mind that it is a permitted use, I will say that,” Mr. Preiato said, in a phone call. However, he said, “I haven’t been asked to put anything in writing and I’m not so quick to do so.”
The last time Mr. Preiato offered an opinion on whether a restaurant and brewery were allowed at 17 Toilsome Lane, in August 2021, a lawsuit was launched — prematurely, as it turned out — by a group of neighbors led by Michael Aaron, who feared their quality of life would be negatively affected by the presence of a microbrewery restaurant. Both the village zoning board of appeals and the Suffolk County Supreme Court agreed that Mr. Preiato had not made an official determination, since it had not yet been put in writing and filed with the village clerk, per village code.
“What we learned from the lawsuits is that you can’t make a determination on use until you see a complete application in front of you, and a building permit has been applied for,” said Mr. Balsam, in a phone call.
But concern among neighbors does not appear to be an issue that is soon to disappear. Mr. Aaron, who owns a house next door to 17 Toilsome Lane, circulated an email before the D.R.B. meeting titled “Beer Wars,” mobilizing neighbors. “If you can’t attend the meeting, here’s how to watch the deception in live action,” he wrote, providing a link. “Shame on them!”
Mr. Balsam noted changes in the application that, he said, had been made in response to neighbors’ previously expressed concerns. “We wanted to make it clear the intended use is more of a quiet use. It’s a restaurant, not a rowdy party scene. So, we removed the beer garden and a second-floor dining space. The outdoor area is now only for dining. We also moved the restaurant as far from the road, and neighbors, as possible.”
Mill Hill Corp. says no more than 10 employees would work at the location at a time. The restaurant and brewery would operate daily during the summer, from noon until 11 p.m., and six days a week during the winter, from noon to 9 p.m.
Only after the D.R.B. finds the application complete would a public hearing be held. Mr. Caruso indicated that he expected Mill Hill Corp. to come before the board at least a couple of times before the application was ready. He named Ann Duffey and Kristin Corwin, two Design Review Board members, to a special committee to work with the company. The New York State Environmental Quality Review Act will also have to be followed. The D.R.B. has accepted the role of lead agency as the process unfolds.
Schneider Engineering, a consulting and project-management company, conducted a traffic study at the location in 2021, concluding that the proposed use was closest to a “fine dining restaurant” and that the traffic generated would be “minimal.” During a peak hour on a Saturday, Schneider Engineering estimated, “the facility can expect to generate 43 total trips per hour on the roadway, or 22 vehicles entering the facility and 16 vehicles leaving the facility.”
“There is no accident history in front of the subject property,” the consultants wrote. Mr. Aaron, however, has repeatedly questioned if cars leaving a brewery at night might ultimately change that reality.
“Toilsome Lane has become a bypass to Main Street,” said Mr. Dayton at the meeting. “The speed limit is 25 miles per hour, but I don’t believe one car in ten goes the speed limit.”