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Jan 25, 2016 11:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Moriches Bay Diner Owners Eye Hampton Bays Diner Spot

The Hampton Bays Diner is closed. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Jan 26, 2016 4:43 PM

The family that owns and operates the Moriches Bay Diner said this week that they are looking to buy the building that, until last summer, had housed the Hampton Bays Diner for more than three decades.

Christina Nikolopoulos, one of the owners of the diner that sits along the south side of Montauk Highway in Moriches, said Monday morning that her family was eyeing the now-vacant diner building that sits just off West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays.

“We’re in the process of buying it,” she said.

The previous owners of the Hampton Bays Diner, Frank and Maria Vlahadamis of Hampton Bays, abruptly closed their business in July 2015—about eight months after they filed for bankruptcy.

The ongoing bankruptcy court proceedings have the potential to complicate the transaction, as the Vlahadamises still own the actual diner building and have been ordered by a bankruptcy court judge to sell it, Paul Fetscher, president of Great American Brokerage in Long Beach previously explained.

Mr. Fetcher, who is listing the diner building for $1.25 million, did not return calls seeking comment this week about the possible sale.

Thomas Charos, the owner of Charos Properties Ltd. in Riverhead and who owns the 1.9 acres that the Hampton Bays Diner building stands on, said this week that he knows nothing about the potential building sale.

“I don’t know anything about this,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

When informed that the George and Christina Nikolopoulos are interested in possibly buying the Hampton Bays building, Mr. Charos offered that they had, in fact, contacted him about the location several times in the past.

“They have been talking to me for the last four or five years, so I told them to go to the guy who is running it,” Mr. Charos said, referring to Mr. Vlahadamis.

In addition to the bankruptcy court proceedings, the potential sale of the building could be further complicated by the unusual arrangement that the Vlahadamises had made with Mr. Charos, their landlord. That is because the couple had agreed to not only pay $10,000 a month in rent, but also cover the bulk of the property taxes on the property that now totals nearly $65,000 annually. In an earlier interview, Mr. Charos said that the Vlahadamises were supposed to cover 78 percent of the property taxes, which, five years ago, came to about $17,500 annually. They stopped paying those in 2010, Mr. Charos said, around the same time that the tax bill on the land more than tripled.

The listing for the Hampton Bays Diner building states that the new tenants would pay “approximately $150,000 net per year.”

Although Ms. Nikolopoulos and her husband, George, confirmed that they are interested in buying the Hampton Bays Diner, both declined to provide any additional information this week.

“I can have you call me in two weeks and I can give you the whole story of what is going to take place, how it is going to take place and when it is going to take place,” Mr. Nikolopoulos said on Tuesday. “Right now is too premature. Anything I tell you now could be false and then I would be telling you something that’s not true.”

The Nikolopoulos family have been operating the Moriches Bay Diner since opening their doors 21 years ago.

If the Nikolopouloses end up opening a diner in Hampton Bays, it will not be their first business in Southampton Town. Mr. Nikolopoulos formerly owned the Trolley Barn in Speonk, which has since closed, while his son, Spiro, operated the Oceana Diner in Westhampton, which has also since closed.

News that the Nikolopouloses are interested in reopening a diner at the prominent Hampton Bays property—considered by many to be a landmark solely because of its location at the southernmost end of Flanders Road and intersecting with West Montauk Highway—was greeted with plenty of support by hamlet residents, most of whom have been speculating about what business would eventually open at the site.

“I am so very glad they are interested,” Brenda Sinclair Berntson, president of the Hampton Bays Historical and Preservation Society, said of the possibility of the Moriches Bay Diner owners moving in. “It would be such a loss to have the diner torn down.”

Other locals agree with Ms. Berntson, stating that a diner would be the best business to move into the space.

“I hope it’s another diner,” Ritta Palo, a Hampton Bays resident who also works at GiGi’s Kids on Main Street in the hamlet, said on Friday. “Something for the family. There’s just something about a diner experience.”

Sue Gilmore, a Hampton Bays resident and the owner of the gift shop Tin Roof on Main Street in the hamlet, is also crossing her fingers that another diner opens in the space.

“I would like a great diner,” Ms. Gilmore said on Friday. “I think it’s the perfect location, and it would certainly make me happy.”

“Definitely another eating establishment,” added Ed Bangtson, a lifelong Hampton Bays resident, after he thought about what business he would like to see move in.

Noting that the sale is not yet finalized, Mr. Charos said that he expects to continue to field calls from other parties who are interested in the property.

“I get calls all the time, except we still have these court problems,” Mr. Charos said, noting that the Vlahadamises had accumulated nearly $1.3 million in debt prior to filing for bankruptcy. “They’re getting better, but they take time.”

In a prior interview, the landlord also stated that officials with CVS Pharmacy had expressed interest in the diner property. However, a pharmacy is not a permitted use for the land, which is currently zoned Hampton Bays Highway Business. That zoning permits restaurants, banks and retails shops.

A CVS representative said this week that the company does not have any immediate plans to move into the hamlet.

“We have no announcement for a new store in Hampton Bays,” Stephanie Cunha, public relations manager for CVS, wrote in an email last week. “We only comment on or confirm new store locations if there is a signed agreement in place for a site.”

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Wonderful news.Hope it works out.....Im getting hungry
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jan 25, 16 12:17 PM
I hope it works out as well!
By MaryGrady (40), on Jan 25, 16 12:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe they will run it like a diner.
If you have ever eaten at Moriches Bay Diner, then you know why this is welcome news.
By loading... (601), quiogue on Jan 25, 16 12:47 PM
I am overjoyed at the possibility!!! Having a diner there is iconic.
By baywoman (165), southampton on Jan 25, 16 2:04 PM
This is wonderful news indeed. The moriches bay diner is clean, wonderful owners and employees and the food is good. I feel like I just won the lottery. Not to mention that the entrance into hampton bays will look great again. Thank you.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Jan 25, 16 2:11 PM
Good news! Now, what's happening at Squiretown?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 25, 16 2:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
It would be great to see a new diner opening up at the gateway into Hampton Bays.
By beachbabe (14), Hampton Bays on Jan 25, 16 5:08 PM
By lursagirl (245), southampton on Jan 25, 16 8:57 PM
I wonder If they will get rid of the Darth Vader nightclub facade.
By joe hampton (3461), on vacation on Jan 26, 16 2:02 AM
2 members liked this comment
Best News Ever!! Love going to CM Diner! But to have awedome food right here! Five minute travel time same great taste and service!! Yeah!!!
By photo951 (1), East Quogue on Jan 26, 16 10:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Best Diners I have tried... On Parade Woodbury, South Bay Diner in Babylon, Southampton is best around these parts
By joe hampton (3461), on vacation on Jan 26, 16 11:52 AM
This would be great!!!
Used to drive right past the Hampton Bays Diner and travel all the way to Moriches to get a good "Diner" meal.
By orpiment (3), Hampton Bays on Jan 28, 16 4:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why not Southampton ?
By joe hampton (3461), on vacation on Jan 29, 16 1:02 AM
Because they use chunk light tuna. I always rate my Diners by the tuna they use.
By orpiment (3), Hampton Bays on Jan 29, 16 10:22 AM