The outdoor tables seen at some popular Ocean Beach dining establishments the past two summers while the COVID-19 pandemic was a concern for New York state will be no more in 2022.
An April 15 letter on Inc. Village of Ocean Beach letterhead was factual, if not a little impersonal – simply signed “Mayor & Board of Trustees, Village of Ocean Beach.”
“As you are aware, in June of 2020 the Governor issued and Executive Order which allowed for a municipality to grant permission for an SLA Licensee to extend service of alcoholic beverages on contiguous and non-contiguous outdoor municipal property,” it reads. “As you know, the Executive Order has been rescinded. Additionally, the Village has determined that the use of this Village property for such services is a danger to the health, safety and welfare of Village residents, personnel and guests. Accordingly, your Temporary Revocable License to use and occupy the outdoor property is hereby revoked effective immediately.”
Outdoor dining is a strong part of Fire Island’s restaurant culture, and this revocation does not affect the majority of establishments in the Ocean Beach business district – including Maguire’s famous outdoor deck, Island Mermaid – or even that of the Albatross, which happens to be owned by the Village Mayor.
However, it does impact a few of the family-style restaurants that lack waterfront views but attract high summer traffic by offering square-meals at reasonable price – such as The Sand Bar, Beacheria, as well as CJ’s – which is owned by the parent company of this publication.
Comment thread remarks when we shared this letter on our Facebook page became quite animated.
“That’s disappointing. It was really nice having it. I wish they would reconsider,” wrote Amy DePietto of Babylon.
“Good news,” said Aviva Meyer Grasso of New York City in contrast. “That’s public property that shouldn’t be used for private profit.”
Most of the commenters found the letter’s reasoning that the decision was being made in the interests of “health and safety” questionable.
“We recognized and supported the commercial district in their time of need – that need has since diminished and does not supersede the need to have free and open walkways,” said Ocean Beach Trustee Christopher Norris during a telephone interview with Fire Island News.
“Consideration is not obligation and it’s time to get back to normal.”
Norris went on to say that any comparison of Ocean Beach to that of New York City, which still permits open-air dining as a “false equivalence” for New York City business districts have roads and sidewalks, while Ocean Beach, located on Fire Island does not. He concluded by reminding this writer that his grandmother had been an Ocean Beach bar and hotel owner herself, but that one can’t lose sight that the village walkways are public space.
At the time this article went to print, no restaurant proprietor in Ocean Beach had responded to our calls for comment.
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