Sleepy Hollow's has been open since December 14, 2010. But ask proprietor Bob Ronan and he says it feels as if it’s been much longer.
Ronan’s long battle to put barstools in front of his bar began back in April, 2010 when he started attending a series of Zoning Board meetings to get a variance on his leased space. There were four hearings last year, one so far this year, and, he hopes, the last one will be next week.
Two doors down, the enjoys the privilege of running a tavern and restaurant in the same space. Ronan’s lot is zoned residential/commercial which apparently limits him to being just a restaurant. While he is allowed to serve alcohol, it is for table-service only. No one can sit, or even stand, at the bar.
At the time of posting this, we had not heard back from Village Architect and Building Inspector Sean McCarthy to clarify the intricacies of the existing code.
Of course the bar without barstools hurts business. Ronan said he's not looking for Moon River be a late-night venue or feature live music; he’s happy to be a good neighbor and close at 11 pm. But he does want the option to succeed in a difficult economy. His hands have been tied to make the most out of his business.
For Ronan, it's less about having a scene and more about comfort. “I have to yell at them [my customers] to carry on a conversation,” he said. “It really takes away from the ambience of the place.” He also cited the problem of the lone customer who might not want to sit by himself in the middle of the dining room but would prefer to be at the bar.
While the first-year anniversary of the Moon River approaches, Ronan isn’t making any party plans until the public hearing at the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday where he expects a vote from the Trustees will finally come.
“They gave me a one-year probationary period. There’s been no violations, no complaints," Ronan said. "I’ve jumped through hoops and I’ve done everything their way. It just makes me question how serious is the town about growth.”
There’s a poster-board sign in the front window proclaiming the hearing on Oct. 19 at 8 pm in the Beekman Municipal Building, as required. Ronan also had to post ads in the local papers and send certified mail notices to 25-30 surrounding residents (at the cost of $3.29 per envelop).
It’s an expensive process each time and the sign in front “scares people away,” he said. “They think we’re closed or there’s a problem.” Currently there are about 400 names on the petition in his favor. “The clientele has been so supportive.” (As witnessed in abundance .)
“The village is not business-friendly,” Ronan said. “You’d think the town would want restaurants.”