Community At Odds Over ‘Bistro Bill’

By Andrew Wroblewski

awroblewski@longislandergroup.com

Vito DeFeo, owner of Viajo’s Pizza and Pasta in Huntington, said Tuesday he is in favor of Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards’ proposal to add a “bistro” designation to the town code.

Vito DeFeo, owner of Viajo’s Pizza and Pasta in Huntington, said Tuesday he is in favor of Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards’ proposal to add a “bistro” designation to the town code.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards’ proposal to add a “bistro” designation in the town code has gained a mixture of support and opposition since it was first made public last month.

The bill, which was discussed at a town board public hearing Tuesday, attracted three speakers who are in favor of allowing some small food-service businesses to add more seats and apply for a license to serve alcohol.

However the Huntington Chamber of Commerce has come out in opposition to the proposal due to concerns over parking.

 “We appreciate the creativity of what’s been suggested, but frankly we’re a membership organization and our restaurant members are against it at this point because of parking,” Robert “Bob” Scheiner said in an interview Wednesday. He said that the chamber sent a letter against the proposal to the town board Tuesday night.

Scheiner said the chamber “does not feel it is appropriate at this point, until the parking strategy has been fully adopted.”

Edwards’ bill would allow 2,500-square-foot or less food-service businesses, currently defined as “food shops,” to be classified as bistros. As a bistro, these businesses would be able to apply for a liquor license and to exceed the 15-seat limit, which food shops currently must abide to.

Asked about the parking concern after Tuesday’s meeting, Edwards said she doesn’t view it as an issue since parking requirements would not be altered if the bill is approved. Bistros would be required to account for one parking space per every 200 square feet, which is the current requirement for food shops.

“I can appreciate the concern for parking in the village. We absolutely respect that and recognize that we have to do something about it, [but] this impacts inside seating only,” Edwards said.

Scheiner didn’t agree with Edwards’ point.

“This will add seats one way or another. Seats add bodies, bodies bring cars, in our view. We feel it will exacerbate the parking problem as long as the zoning board continues to grant variances on parking, as they’ve been doing,” he said. Bistro owners can request parking relief from the town’s zoning board if their establishment is within 300 feet of a municipal lot.

Jack Palladino, president of the Huntington Village Business Improvement District, said Wednesday he, too, is concerned about parking if the proposal was passed.

Edwards’ bill had its supporters at Tuesday’s Huntington Town Board meeting.

Vito DeFeo, owner of Viajo’s Pizza and Pasta in Huntington, said the bill would benefit his own business, and many others like his.

“I used to have a liquor license and it is a very intricate part of the restaurant,” DeFeo said. “When you come to enjoy a real good meal, it’s only adding to the fact to have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. I think it’s a great thing to be able to offer to the consumer a variety of places to go to” eat.

Two others also spoke in favor of the proposal.

Edwards’ proposal will be eligible for a vote as early as the Jan. 12 town board meeting.