By Carina Livoti
The Northport community has spoken: The Purple Elephant must stay.
After a series of what owner David Intonato characterizes as miscommunications with the Village of Northport, zoning issues threaten the clean-food eatery, located on 81B Fort Salonga Road.
“We were a provisions store and market café, but when we made the transition we applied for [and were granted] restaurant-related things,” Intonato said.
He said the restaurant-related things they had applied for included outdoor dining permits and a beer and wine license, both of which went through the village. He and his wife, Erin, believed that their successful applications meant that they were approved to operate as a restaurant.
The Purple Elephant, which has become known for its organic and vegan as well as non-vegan offerings, appeared before the village zoning board in 2013, when they applied for permission to serve beer and wine and for the addition of eight seats to the establishment.
According to the zoning board resolution, both requests were granted, provided that the sale of beer and wine was not the principle use of the establishment. The additional eight seats, which created a total of 16 seats, were also allowed.
However, village officials said that these decisions did not make provisions for the other restaurant-like activity going on in the establishment.
When Intonato and his wife approached the village for some event permits at the end of April, he said they were shocked to learn that they were not approved to operate as a restaurant.
“We were under the assumption that we were approved for something that we weren’t, and we want to comply with everything and do what we need to do to get the proper restaurant status,” Intonato said.
Intonato started an online campaign in hopes of garnering support from the community for The Purple Elephant’s continued use as a restaurant, which will be up for discussion at the May 27 zoning board meeting. Since then, the Purple Elephant proprietor said there has been an outpouring of support, including over 1000 signatures on their petition to “Save The Purple Elephant” along with letters from patrons from Northport to Hampton Bays to Queens.
“We didn’t want to blow it into a big thing; it just sort of happened on its own. We wanted to show the village that we are an asset to the community,” he said.
More than anything, Intonato said that they wanted to continue to supply good clean food to the community.
“I’m not looking for a fight or a battle; I’m just looking to do what we do and quietly move on here. We’re a chill place,” he said.