WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — If you want to open a restaurant in America’s largest township it will have to have windows.
That’s according to a first-of-its-kind law passed on Tuesday.
But as CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, some say it’s just targeting one restaurant owner. Those concerns prompted heated debate during a meeting in the Town of Hempstead.
“Why are windows necessary in restaurants? You say it’s necessary for health and safety yet you won’t say one reason why it’s necessary,” Felix Procacci said.
“Your law makes no sense. You can’t explain it. It is absolutely ludicrous,” restaurant owner Rori Gordon added.
North Bellmore strip club owner Billy Dean claims the Town of Hempstead is changing its zoning laws to require windows on all sides of restaurant buildings simply to prevent his new restaurant and cabaret in Wantagh from opening.
“They know that it’s almost impossible to change the building to have the windows and it’s costly. It’s been an ongoing moving target with the town targeting them,” Dean’s attorney Erica Dubno said.
Furniture in the still unopened ‘Hanger’ has sat wrapped in plastic for four years amid a drawn out battle with those who oppose his brand of entertainment.
“Cabaret acts of that style, anything that is going to be a high end ticket in a very small, intimate, Las Vegas style dinner theater,” Dean said.
Dean said the building has underwent dozens of inspections and that he’s met all the requirements.
“Thirty-nine inspections I’ve gone through in this building, 39 inspections. Almost unheard of,” Dean told WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs. “Passed every single inspection, now they come up with this windows resolution. Where was it during those 39 inspections?”
It’s outrageous and unfair to all town businesses, says Dean, who promises to now take his fight to federal court, Xirinachs reported. He said there won’t be any nudity, but windows will ruin the ambiance and his finances.
“No windows in a movie theater, no windows in a theater in Manhattan,” he said.
His attorney called it a thinly veiled political ploy.
“I think it’s purely about keeping Billy Dean closed,” Dubno said.
The town’s attorney said the motivation was a notorious 1982 crime. The armed siege of a then windowless diner in Old Westbury. Patrons were terrorized.
“We thought there was a state law or Nassau County had enacted something and we saw when no one had enacted it, we thought it was something we should put on the books going forward,” Town of Hempstead attorney Joe Ra said.
After 34 years critics said the timing is suspect, and the restaurants are safer without windows. Burglars have been targeting places they can see are empty.
The new law will only affect new construction, so restaurants that are already open won’t have to comply. Billy Dean said he won’t either. He plans to take the town to court again.
Wantagh residents have long opposed the cabaret. Many said they did not want it near their children, fearing the business would be a strip club.
Restaurant owners will be able to apply for a variance to the window requirement law which town officials said will be considered on a case by case basis.