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Wine Picnics Nixed at Springs General Store

Thu, 04/11/2024 - 10:39

There will be no on-site imbibing at Springs General

With the owners of the Springs General Store no longer planning to sell wine for on-site consumption, placement of an A.D.A.-compliant ramp remains one of the final sticking points in their application before the East Hampton Town Planning Board.
Practical Arts

When the Springs General Store eventually reopens — and it won’t be this summer — it will still serve egg sandwiches and coffee starting at 7 a.m., but it won’t be selling alcohol for on-site consumption, as originally planned.

Divining that on-site alcohol consumption was the main issue holding up the business’s application before the East Hampton Town Planning Board, in January the general store’s owners decided to scrap their New York State Liquor Authority application for on-site consumption.

It’s been two years since Daniel Bennett, an owner of the general store, first presented plans for updating the historic building and its beloved store planning board. He said he thought the plans were modest: Highlight the history of the store through interior renovations, abandon kayak rentals, and instead, sell wine out of a storage shed, which would be converted to a small shop no larger than a parking space.

However, the idea to allow people to drink the wine at picnic tables on the parklike parcel caused consternation among nearby residents and with the planning board. After a planning board meeting on April 3, it was clear that wine will still be sold, but not for drinking on the general store property.

There were other important takeaways regarding the proposal, revealed by Mr. Bennett in a phone conversation (he could not attend the meeting). First, despite questions during the meeting, he said the general store will be open for breakfast at 7 a.m.

“One of the first conversations I had with the old owner was that egg sandwiches and drip coffee will be on the menu. Somehow, after all these years, the board was under the impression we weren’t selling breakfast,” he said. The two businesses, the general store and wine shop, will open at two different times, hence the confusion. “Eleven a.m. is past egg sandwich time,” said Sharon McCobb, a board member. But it’s the wine shop that will open at 11, not the general store.

As for the reopening date: “There’s just not a shot we’re going to be open this summer,” said Mr. Bennett.

Despite the withdrawn S.L.A. application, planning board members were keen to ensure they weren’t being duped somehow, peppering Michael Schiano, an environmental planner with Inter-Science Research Associates, speaking for Springs General, with comments and questions.

“Will you agree to a covenant to not have Bacchanalia?” joked Louis Cortese, a board member.

“It’s got to be really clear,” said Ed Krug, another board member. “This French or Napa Valley theme was a very important part of the concept. But it’s not just the board that had issues. It was not a popular idea in the community.”

“The specifics of that shouldn’t hold us up moving forward, because it’s not part of our application right now,” said Mr. Schiano.

“On-site consumption will be scratched out on the site plan?” asked Ms. McCobb.

“If you’d like me to come in tomorrow and scratch it out on every copy of plans, I will do that,” Mr. Schiano said. “If anyone drinks on premises, they would not be doing it legally.”

“Is there an opportunity for some interpretation to make the picnic tables at the other premises, off premise to the wine shop?” asked Mr. Krug.

“It’s the same site,” said Nancy Marshall, an assistant town attorney, trying to reassure Mr. Krug and the board. “You could make it a condition of approval there will be no consumption, if you want to drive that point home.” Lisa Liquori, a planning consultant hired by the town, noted in her memo about the project that “If there are changes to the S.L.A. permit in the future, that a new site plan application will be required.”

Once the board was as comfortable as possible with the liquor license matter, which had been the toughest issue, it was able to quickly address smaller points.

Ms. Liquori noted that the application still needed to be heard by the architectural review board, because it’s in a historic district. “Their comments will be very important and any changes to the facade visible from the street will be of critical importance.” (Springs General already received approval from the town’s disabilities advisory board for the design of a ramp that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

Navigation into the historically open parking lot will now be more controlled, with users entering from the west and exiting on the east. The lot surface will be permeable. A generator which caused the board some concern because of noise and aesthetics, has been removed from the application. A new I/A septic system, for which the store received grants, will be installed, along with over 14,000 square feet of native plants. The lighting plan needed some tweaking, but nothing major, and Mr. Schiano said that the Springs General owners would be happy to covenant whatever the board desired.

It was clear he was trying to get the board to move the application to a public hearing, but the board wasn’t quite prepared. It’s close. Even so, Springs General still needs to secure natural resource special permits from the zoning board of appeals, and the application is not yet in that board’s queue.

“When are you going to open?” asked Mr. Krug.

Mr. Schiano responded with a question. “I don’t know. When can we get on the zoning board agenda?”

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