The Baits and Barrels gun shop on West Main Street in March, after the state closed down "non-esstential' retail stores. File photo: Denise Civiletti

A West Main Street gun shop won approval from the Riverhead Planning Board last night to operate a firearms testing container on its property.

The container is to test firearms bought or repaired at Baits & Barrels and is an accessory use to the principal use of the site. It is not be open to the public solely as a shooting range, according to the resolution approving the owner’s site plan application.

The resolution was approved 4-1 over the objection of Planning Board Chairman Stan Carey, who said he objected to how the use of the site “morphed” over the years.

“I’m a bit astonished at how this application morphed from a bait & tackle shop 30 years ago on Main Street in Riverhead to an accessory use to sell firearms and now to put in a shooting range,” Carey said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate. I just want to go on record saying that.”

The site is the former longtime home of Fisherman’s Deli, which sold live bait in addition to breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

Carey also expressed concern that there would be no limit on the hours of operation of the testing container, which he said should be limited to the hours the shop is open. Carey said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for people to be carrying loaded guns outside — from the shop to the testing container — after dark.

Vice chairman Ed Densieski disagreed. “I wouldn’t want to see limits. I don’t see a public benefit in limiting local business.”

The applicant’s architect Martin Sendlewski said “limiting hours would really be a hindrance to their business.” He said it’s safe walking from the back of the building to the container and there are lights in the back.

“We prefer not to have a limit on hours,” Sendlewski said. There’s no impact on neighboring properties. As you know there’s been a big uptick on firearm sales. Sometimes they are so busy during the day they have to test at night.”

Guns and ammo stores saw a surge in business after the coronavirus outbreak reached pandemic proportions. Baits & Barrels owner Tom Newman told RiverheadLOCAL in March the store sold out of its inventory and had even tried to ration ammunition. He attributed it to “hysteria” and rumors about quarantines and martial law.

Support local journalism.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

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.