The brick pump house in Grangebel Park was built in 1907 next to the Riverhead Water Company's 100-foot-tall water tower. Photo: Peter Blasl

Riverhead has cut ties with a downtown restaurant owner who agreed to operate a concession at the Grangebel Park pump house.

The town and Dark Horse Restaurant owner Dee Muma entered into a 10-year license agreement in May 2014 which granted Muma the right to operate a concession at the pump house. The town board last night terminated that agreement, citing nonperformance by the licensee.

The agreement called for Muma to operate the concession on weekends in May and June, 2014 and “daily thereafter” until Labor Day from 12 noon to 6 p.m. “The failure to operate as required, unless for extraordinary circumstances, shall be deemed a failure to perform under the terms of this license agreement and may result in termination of the agreement, at the sole discretion of the town,” the agreement reads.

The agreement gave Muma the right to use the site without a fee to the town. The town assumed responsibility under the agreement for providing “basic utility services including electric, water, sewer (if applicable)” and garbage service. Muma undertook responsibility for the costs of improvements required to operate a concession.

In an interview this morning, Muma said it wasn’t possible to operate the concession without potable water and a gray-water drain, both of which are required by the county health department. The town never installed the water line, Muma said.

“I’m happy I was able to rescue the pump house from rot and degradation,” Muma said.

“I have a front row seat on that building,” said Muma, whose restaurant is on the corner of East Main Street and Peconic Avenue. “What I saw was a catastrophe. It was completely open. There were no windows or door. It was used as a shooting gallery and for prostitution,” Muma said.

“I approached the town and asked if I could fix it up,” she said. Muma cleaned it up and put a new door and window shutters on the building to secure it.

“I said I would serve at special events… I dutifully went to events and served free food and lemonade every time.” But without the water and drain line, she couldn’t operate a food service establishment there, she said.

“In any case…I could not fulfill my hope,” she said. “I didn’t do this for profit. I did this for the town. Things were starting to look up and that eyesore had to get fixed,” Muma said. “It’s a dear little building.”

The brick pump house was built in 1907 next to a 100-foot-tall water tower built in 1892 by Riverhead attorney Timothy Griffing, who with several other men established the Riverhead Water Company in 1892. Griffing bought the property that is now Grangebel Park in 1884. He developed the park and named it “Grangebel” after his three daughters: Grace, Angeline and Mabel. (See more on the history of Grangebel Park.)

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the town will look to enter into a “limited license agreement for events” for a new concession at the pump house.

“We’re still exploring what we are seeking there,” Jens-Smith said.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent, liaison to the downtown revitalization committee said the pump house is a “great spot” that the town really wants to be able to better utilize.

“It fits in perfectly with what we want to do,” Kent said.

“I thank Dee for the work she put into it,” she said. “It’s appreciated.”

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

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.