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Rowdy Hall Gets to Keep It Black

Sat, 03/23/2024 - 15:40
Rowdy Hall opened at its new location on Amagansett's Main Street in the fall.
Carissa Katz

Updated, March 28:

The East Hampton Town attorney signed a stipulation of settlement with the owners of Rowdy Hall in Amagansett on Friday that will allow the much-disputed exterior of the restaurant to remain black.

The town’s architectural review board had denied the business’s request for a black facade on Oct. 26, saying that the color was not in keeping with the guidelines of the Amagansett historic district. In November, the Honest Man restaurant group, which owns Rowdy and several other eateries, filed an Article 78 petition to overturn the decision.

“The applicant’s attorney asked us to have a conversation with the A.R.B. to see if they were interested in settling,” said Robert Connelly, the town attorney. “The A.R.B. did want to settle. They looked at it again and in hindsight, thought the color choice was reasonable.” At the March 14 A.R.B. meeting, the board voted 4-1 to approve the resolution to settle. Kathleen Cunningham, who was chairwoman of the A.R.B. when Rowdy was presenting to the board in the fall, voted against the settlement.

“I’m glad it’s behind us, for all involved,” Mark Smith, an owner of Rowdy Hall, said Saturday. “Business has been good and we’re looking forward to the season. It’s up to the town to take a look at these situations and reflect on them and make the appropriate changes.”

“The code is a little vague. They’re just guidelines in that section, not hard and fast rules,” said Mr. Connelly. “The town is going to look to clarify that section fairly soon.”

Town code offers Amagansett historic district guidelines, which state: “Colors of historic buildings should be appropriate to their period and style,” and that “Natural-shingle siding or siding painted white along with white trim are appropriate finishes,” and that “Other colors used should harmonize with the colors of the historic district buildings and with the setting of the historic district.”

For 26 years, the facade at Rowdy Hall’s former location in East Hampton Village had been black and the owners saw the color as part of its brand. “It was part of our identity in the village and even before that, black and gold has been a traditional color for pubs throughout Europe. It’s like that now in the States as well. You go into the city and it’s everywhere,” said Mr. Smith.

The business had first submitted its request for a black facade at the end of last summer and did so twice more. Jon Tarbet, Rowdy’s lawyer, often had contentious exchanges with both board members and a town attorney, David McMaster, who resigned from his post in November.

After they were denied, Rowdy went ahead and painted the facade black anyway. The town issued a stop-work order and issued the business a violation for not having a building permit. Rowdy said the black was just primer, but that explanation was not accepted by the town.

Even though Mr. Smith said at the time that he wasn’t seeking a fight with the town, the following week, Rowdy sued.

As part of the agreement, adjudicated by Justice George M. Nolan of the State of New York Suffolk County Court, and signed by Mr. Connelly, Rowdy Hall acknowledged that any further changes to the facade first need to be approved by the town.

“I was disappointed to learn the outcome of this Article 78, which was weak and replete with misrepresentations,” said Esperanza Leon, who was a member of the A.R.B. when the denial to Rowdy Hall was issued. Ms. Leon finished her term in December, but was not reappointed. “That the Town of East Hampton settled shows a concerning lack of support for the decisions made by these independent boards.”

“The process was flawed but I am thankful that in the end the town did right by Mark and Joe [Realmuto, executive chef and another owner of the restaurant]. All the community support was appreciated,” said Mr. Tarbet. At a September public hearing, Town Hall was full of boisterous support for the pub.

Note: This article has been updated since it first appeared online.

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