The owner of the dilapidated and long-vacant former restaurant site on the corner of Griffing and Railroad avenues has until Sept. 12 to remedy conditions deemed unsafe by the Riverhead fire marshal, according to Riverhead deputy town attorney Dan McCormick.

McCormick told the town board this morning he and Fire Marshal Craig Zitek met with “a principal in the corporate owner” of site on Aug. 12. During that meeting, the principal — whom McCormick did not name — said the owner would remedy conditions on the premises that the fire marshal found to be unsafe.

Pursuant to town code, McCormick said, the owner has 30 days to remedy.

Asked if the town sent the owner a letter advising it of the dangerous conditions, as required by town code before the town can take further steps to remedy the conditions itself, McCormick said, “The appropriate paperwork was physically hand-delivered to him that date.”

“In other words, they were personally served,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

“I was concerned about the nail-and-mail, quite frankly,” McCormick said, referring to notices previously posted on the premises and mailed to the record owners on July 20 and Nov. 19.

The notices, sent by the fire marshal, detail allegedly dangerous conditions, both interior and exterior. The fire marshal and town engineer’s office inspected the building’s interior on June 4. The building’s roof is collapsed, exposing roof rafters to the elements, its soffits are rotting away, there are interior structural deficiencies, and rubbish and refuse has accumulated on the property and vermin activity has been observed, according to notices sent by the town to the property owner(s).

Part of the building's roof is missing, exposing rafters and the building interior to the elements. A plastic tarp that was covering the damaged area recently fell apart and blew off. Photo: Denise Civiletti
Part of the building’s roof is missing, exposing rafters and the building interior to the elements. A plastic tarp that was covering the damaged area recently fell apart and blew off. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The town can proceed to clean, repair or even demolish an unsafe structure, but town code requires a 30-day notice be given to the property owner before the town proceeds. If the property owner doesn’t remedy the violations within the 30-day period, the town must schedule a public hearing at which it must establish the dangerous condition. Then, after a finding by the town board that the dangerous condition exists, the board can order the building repaired or razed. The cost of the repairs or demolition is added to the property tax bill as an assessment.

Notices dated Nov. 19, 2014 were addressed to three different companies, but the July 20 notice was addressed only to Hampton Pines Hotel Inc., which is listed as the owner of record in the town’s final assessment roll for 2015-2016.

The Suffolk County Clerk’s online records show the owner of record to be Ebb Tide Bay Ltd., which was listed as a property owner — along with a third corporate entity, Libra VII LTD — on the town’s 2014-2015 final assessment roll. All entities share the same Southampton address: 134 Mariner Drive, Southampton, which is also the address of a LGP Foundations, a concrete contracting company owned by Lyle Pike.

Walter today reaffirmed his previous assertion that Pike is the owner of the abandoned restaurant and said town officials have had several meetings with him in the past about the conditions there.

Ebb Tide Bay bought the former restaurant site in 1999 from STU Corp., a company operated by Michael Jacobchek. STU Corp bought the building in 1989, when Jacobchek was the successful proprietor of the Birchwood restaurant in Polish Town. Jacobchek undertook extensive renovations of the restaurant, the former Klein’s Courthouse restaurant, which was then shuttered. Located steps away from the State Supreme Court building, it had once been a popular eatery and hangout for lawyers and judges. The building itself dates back to 1890, according to town records.

Jacobchek opened the renovated restaurant in 1990. Featuring a grand piano and mahogany bar in its pub and upscale dining rooms with fireplaces, it was an instant success. Jacobchek was recognized by Riverhead Townscape with a community beautification award for his transformation of the site. He continued in successful operation there for several years but after a decline in business that he blamed on the decline of the surrounding neighborhood and media crime reports, Jacobchek sold the building.

Under Ebb Tide’s ownership, a chef turned the site into a high-end Italian restaurant, which soon closed. After that, the building had a short-lived reincarnation as the Courthouse Restaurant. It has been closed and boarded up for much of the past decade.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.