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Oct 10, 2012 10:36 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Old Stove Pub Sign Will Have To Comply With Code

Oct 10, 2012 11:24 AM

The Old Stove Pub has been the Brigadoon of the restaurant industry on the South Fork for a decade now. At times it has been open for business on an intermittently unorthodox schedule, only to then vanish into the darkness off Montauk Highway in Sagaponack, seemingly 
unannounced, for weeks, months or even years—only to suddenly reemerge again for a new stint.

During much of this time, as owner Coula Johnides tried to find a new partnership to take over the restaurant, the only hint that longtime fans of the char-grilled steaks and classic Greek cuisine have had that the famous steak broiler is roaring again has been the sudden re-illumination of the neon red arrow that tops the restaurant’s roadside sign. The glowing arrow, above a white backlit sign with the restaurant name, points to the former Victorian-style home that might otherwise never be taken for a restaurant, sitting several hundred feet back on the largely unlit property.

The arrow burst back to life earlier this fall when a new consortium took up management of the restaurant as it tries to work out a deal to buy the property from Ms. Johnides. But its beacon may be short-lived.

A Sagaponack Village law modeled after a similar townwide amortization law requires that any commercial signs that do not conform with the town’s sign codes—Southampton Town banned the use of neon lighting in the 1980s—must be removed or brought into compliance by January 1, 2013.

Unlike the restaurant’s grandfathered zoning designation as a commercial business in an otherwise residential area, the Old Stove Pub’s sign will not be spared from the rule simply because it existed before the law was written. However, according to Village Clerk Rhodi Winchell, the owners of the building can apply to the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance to allow the sign to remain.

Ms. Winchell said she is sending out letters this week to the owners of all non-conforming commercial signs in the tiny village, informing them of the closing amortization window and of the appeals process.

To be sure, the sign will have its fans and detractors among residents and within village government. On Tuesday evening, members of the Village Board voiced both sides of the argument.

“I think it should stay,” said Trustee Lee Foster.

“Well, I don’t,” Mayor Donald Louchheim countered. “Neon has been outlawed for close to 30 years.”

Ms. Foster alluded to the sign’s iconic place in Sagaponack history, even if its kitschy glow is out of place in the pastoral setting of the surrounding farm fields and palatial mansions of Sagaponack.

“I really think that is one of the last ... ” Ms. Foster said, her thought trailing off mid-sentence before summing up: “Let’s just leave it there.”

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The Mercedes dealer on CR39 can light up the night sky like a 20,000 square foot bonfire, but they go after a small biz owner for some neon? Get your priorities straight.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 10, 12 12:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
The Mercedes dealer is in the town of Southampton, this place is located in the vilage of Sagaponack, as the story so very clearly states.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Oct 10, 12 12:32 PM
Fourth paragraph down states that SH Town banned neon lighting in the 1980's I think the sign laws intent was to tone down garish signs. I do lnot think the Stove Pub sign falls in that catagory. Now does the village of Sagaponack have a sign law?
Seems like a case of newbies wanting to make their own stamp on things. Heaven forbid that someone should want to put up a neon sign in the Potato field! I can see it now "Potato Field. Potatoes by Marilee" all in lovely brown with little green ...more
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Oct 10, 12 8:42 PM
I believe the village of Sagaponack is in the Town of Southampton
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 11, 12 9:59 AM
Yes it is. Your point being? Just because there is a law/ordance at the town level, it absolutley does not transcend to the village level.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Oct 11, 12 10:07 AM
Village's are not subject to the laws of the Town unless they specifically adopt them
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 11, 12 10:08 AM
Hello dagdavid?
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Oct 14, 12 7:39 PM
Hope they keep it - it's iconic and it's not exactly going to set a precedent in Sagaponack
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 10, 12 12:19 PM
4 members liked this comment
As anyone who drives through the Town of Southampton (from Riverside along Route 24, to Southampton along County Route 39, to Bridgehampton along Route 27) alrteady knows, the Town of Southampton is currently doing a very poor job of enforcing its own Sign Ordinance when it comes to the prohibition against neon signs erected after January 1, 1981. I wonder why? As for Southampton's code, they have established January 1, 2015 as the "extended amortization date." Will the Village of Sagaponack ...more
By davbud (127), east hampton on Oct 10, 12 1:07 PM
They aren't doing a bad job if the businesses have until 2015... can't force them to get rid of them until then.

There is really only one building inspector who is responsible for signs and he does a very good job of respoding to complaints. The fact of the matter is he doesn't have time to go around to every business who is in violation because of his other responsibilities. See a sign you think is illegal? Make a complaint.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 10, 12 2:16 PM
As I read SH Town Code Section 330-202(B), the so-called "amortization law" provision deals only with setting a "sunset date" for those PRE-EXISTING, NONCONFORMING neon and other signs that were erected prior to January 1, 1981, and are deemed to be "historic" exceptions to the current provisions. Newly erected signs, over the past 30+ years, like the garish neon signs that outline an insurance agency office storefront on Cty Rte. 39, are simply not allowed, but are being ignored by the Town. ...more
By davbud (127), east hampton on Oct 10, 12 4:40 PM
They do have the ability to write tickets - but it's very low down on their priority list because their main job is dealing with permits related to commercial and residential structures. The one inspector who is in charge of signs works on compliance but it's a big town. As I stated previously, if you, Mr. Buda see a sign you think is not in compliance, make a formal complaint with the Town of Southampton and it will be investigated. I've done it many times and each sign was quickly removed after ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 10, 12 5:42 PM
Strict and even-handed enforcement of all Town and Village Ordinances should be the norm, and not require citizen complaints to trigger action by those charged with, and paid to, enforce the laws. Moreover, if the Town issued Notices of Violation and followed up with issuing court summones, the Town would collect more than enough to pay for any extra effort required. Witness the fact that in the Village of East Hampton they adopted new rules regulating real estate signs, and strictly enforce them, ...more
By davbud (127), east hampton on Oct 12, 12 10:01 AM
They do enforce the law and they do write NOV's and do issue court summonses to those who don't respond to the NOV. The problem is that the building inspectors have a LOT of work to do and cannot spend all of their time checking to see which signs are legal and which are not. As I stated previously, it's my guess that people would be up in arms if a full time employee was tasked simply with sign compliance. I'm sure many would think it's a foolish use of money and wonder if there aren't "more ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 13, 12 10:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
I would like to know who orders the building inspector to ignore the sign law. They usually follow directives from superiors. I spoke to a friend from WM, and she said that the person in charge "interprets" law.
By kelbas (30), Southampton on Oct 17, 12 10:02 PM
How is the moussaka?
By littleplains (305), olde england on Oct 10, 12 1:38 PM
It doesn't matter as the light will be off soon when the restaurant goes out of business yet again. The food is atrocious. On par with airline food. Seriously.
By wainscotter (18), wainscott on Oct 10, 12 2:49 PM
The village of Sagaponak is turning into a socialist state. They are changing zoning and laws too make it unfriendly to business and summer residents wanting a new house. The village is run by a bunch of old busy bodies with nothing too do but complain. They should get a job and leave people alone.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 10, 12 6:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Oct 10, 12 7:19 PM
A) there is very little commercial zoning in the village - and that area has always been like that. There aren't business people clamoring to get into the village and open up a business (especially with sky high land prices)

B) The village is run by officials elected by the residents of the village. You (and please correct me if I'm wrong) are not a member of the Village, so not only do you have no say, but it has very little everyday affect on you

C) Having a law against neon ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 10, 12 7:24 PM
They are environmentalists, of course I am using the following definition of an environmentalist: A person who already has his/her house, job and money...another phrase used by many out here regarding these people is, "Gotminers"
By 5TH GEN (3), Southampton on Oct 11, 12 10:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
Don't be so so sure where I am or am not a member Mrs. Frankie
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Oct 15, 12 9:17 PM
i really hope this is a joke-what is up with sign obsession in these villages- get a life, sagaponack trustees
By wmdwjr (76), east hampton on Oct 10, 12 9:06 PM
2 members liked this comment
First off last time I looked the village of Sagaponack is part of the United States therefore it entitles people to property rights. I think it is wrong when a village can take away anyones rights such as this sign. This village has been taking away property rights since the day it started. The village has even gone as far as too dictate the type of shrubs you can plant in your yard.I don't live in Sagaponack, but I do own property in the village that Stalin would be proud of. This is an example ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 11, 12 12:10 AM
2 members liked this comment
Where in the US Constitution does it say you have the right to a neon sign?

Chief, you yourself stated, "This is an example ...more of how stupid citizens worry about signs and not about problems like federal deficits, wars, and unemployment."

And yet, here you are.. using valuable time to talk about how a local village (which is one of the most expensive places to live in the world) wants to consider eliminating the use of a sign (through clearly democratic channels) is an example ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 11, 12 9:14 AM
You really don't have an understanding of the constitution do you? Why should anything pre existing be elimanated by the goverment? The constitution guarantees your right too control your own property and gives citizens the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, We really are under seige by local goverments over property rights, Especially since the people that want the laws changed usually have their homes and want others too endure the new hardships
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 11, 12 11:12 PM
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Oct 15, 12 9:18 PM
cant wait for NEXT halloween .the trick or treating over in those new condos where that quarry stood for years on mcgee st, is going to be great!!! ..wait, Halloween is on a thursday next year .. i hope some loclas live there and not just the dreaded weekenders
By david h (405), southampton on Oct 11, 12 10:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
What in the world are you smoking at this time of day?
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Oct 11, 12 10:13 AM
well said.
ahh, just loving myself some 27east comments section and trying to share some inspiration.
i love how the issues get hammered out comment by insightful comment .. so often by the 100+, 500+ AND 1000+ !!! commenters taking the initiative .. invariably the snipes and barbs .. and i personnaly LVOE the MOST the mistypes , the unintentional CAPS that all draw new commenters in .. their chance to speak up that they have noticed someone MISTYPING thier comment HA!! ..usually calling ...more
By david h (405), southampton on Oct 11, 12 11:29 AM
3 members liked this comment
just leave the old sign in place since it really invokes Sagaponack of old
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Oct 11, 12 7:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
Who do you have to know to bypass the SIGN LAW. This one should be easy since no-one (nada,zilch etc) in Southampton Town complies.
By patrickstar (67), hampton bays on Oct 11, 12 9:12 PM
Exceptions can and should be made for old, classic neon signs, and this may be a deserving example. Who would argue that the neon signs at Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton or at the movie theatre in Sag Harbor should be removed. But, there must be compliance with the legal process that allows for an appeal and the granting of a limited number of variances. David Buda
By davbud (127), east hampton on Oct 12, 12 10:14 AM
3 members liked this comment
Really?!?! Isn't there something else that they should go after? For as long as I can remember, that sign has been there...LEAVE IT!!!!
By emtd1 (3), Montauk on Oct 12, 12 3:25 PM
2 members liked this comment
Geez, not quite the "neon lights on Broadway". I would never have realized it was there unless this article appeared. Let it die its own death, no need to take it out. People should focus instead on the noise pollution generated from the air traffic going to East Hampton airport. That's the real environmental and pollution problem in the area.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Oct 13, 12 3:38 PM
That sign has been there longer than 75-80% of the houses in Sagaponack not to mention 90% of the residents! Leave it be, it is a part of the highways character in that area. Village of Sagaponack you all well know there are much more important issues for you to address, such as your rapidly receding dunes. As for they can go to the ZBA, that is a sad way to generate capital.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Oct 15, 12 5:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
actually is serves as a valuable public utility because that stretch of road can get very very dark !! its a valuable point of reference for safe driving .. a beacon .. a light house in fact i have been glad to see it many times!
.. eventually the fields nearby will be all developed and this sissue will fade away .. i'd rather have the mansions than the mini malls and condos
..actually ,please would love any additional commentary from others-->
By david h (405), southampton on Oct 16, 12 8:34 AM
what type of dvelopement is everyone's preference ::
the most common seem to be 1] MANSIONS 2] CONDOS 3] massive Mini Mall
and even 4] super huge giant art museam ... but i hate the condo's & malls. and the instant mcmansion neighborhoods are also real REAL DANGER(like beind the pc richard) are SUCH PIECES OF JUNK !!!!!!!!! REPLETE WITH CRAP MATERIALS CRAP WORKMANSHIP AND ALL THE SHORTCUTS you could imagine !!

old stuff has suchwonderful character ..why rip it out.
By david h (405), southampton on Oct 16, 12 8:39 AM
How about no development, preserve the last intact significant tracts of farmland along MTK Hwy. Even if it goes from cornfields to grape vines anything is better than more McMansions, condos, half full mini malls. The south fork is a sad shell of the natural beauty it once was, why not seek to maintain this last bit of open space rather than look at it as we are looking at the current presidential race, which is the lesser evil. I'll tell you the lesser evil is to keep it as a working farm. I remember ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Oct 17, 12 1:12 PM
The beauty of home rule in NYS, is that even small communities are allowed to formulate their own zoning laws. Sag chose to break with the Brookhaven developers that have infiltrated the Town of Southampton, and therefore, preserve the quality of life that the Village now offers its community. Imagine the subdivisions with poorly built mcmansions, including poolhouses used as separate rental apartments, populating Sagaponack!(as is occurring in Bridge now)! With regard to signs, let's hope the ...more
By kelbas (30), Southampton on Oct 17, 12 9:30 PM
You are correct RE: one sign inspector - see my comments above. btw, if you think enforcement in Southampton is bad (which honestly, it isn't) then you should take a drive through Brookhaven Town. Talk about an area of zero enforcement...

As for the PETCO sign - the Planning Board had their hands tied... they were looking @ a lawsuit if they didn't allow it as it exists now.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 18, 12 12:00 PM
david h is right the sign has been there longer than most of the residents even heard of Sagaponak, Also the old owener Ms. Johndies has more money than God!! she should buy the whole damn village!
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Oct 18, 12 11:44 AM
That there sign actually per-exists the village of sagaponack. Those ol boys need to unwad thur panties.
By we could run this town! (129), the oceanfront trailer park on Oct 19, 12 1:58 AM
just like they wouldn't let the old Carvel cones go back up on the building. Big Brother has spoken
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Oct 20, 12 7:44 PM