Town of Smithtown officials are considering building code changes that could have many local restaurants reclassified as nightclubs.
Smithtown's Planning Director Frank DeRubeis presented the first wave of building code changes in the town's move towards a modernized, overlay zoning system before Smithtown Town Board on Tuesday afternoon. Changes to Chapter 322 of the Building Zone Ordinance code would define new types of businesses in town and set their parking requirements.
"The new uses we are adding here are mostly very common items but for one reason or another were not permitted in the town before," DeRubeis said.
New businesses that are proposed to be written into town code include contractor showrooms, health spas, microbreweries, power equipment shops, shipping centers and the definition of a vocational school. DeRubeis said previously many of these businesses had to seek out variances from the town's planning board to open, because their business type didn't exist under town code.
However, one of the largest changes that will be made is eliminating the term "discotheque" and modernizing it to "night club." DeRubeis said the change of terms also comes with a simpler definition that may cause some of the town's restaurants and bars to be reclassified as a night club.
The proposed building ordinance change would define a night club as, "an establishment, not including a 'membership club,' that has dancing with music or live entertainment in conjunction with the consumption of alcoholic beverages." This eliminates the previous requirement of whether a business having more than 20 percent of its floor space dedicated to dancing to be a discotheque.
DeRubeis said the town is proposing to the change because of the number of complaints from local residents about restaurants and bars whose nightly events generated loud music and overflow parking.
"What has happened is we've had complaints, the biggest amount of complaints from residents are places that are acting beyond what they described," he said.
The planning director cited Wall Street, now operated as Silk Lounge in Hauppauge, as one example, but said there were numerous other businesses on Jericho Turnpike and Smithtown that the town receives regular complaints about that would be classified as a night club.
Under the proposed definition and regulations for a night club, these businesses would not be permitted within 200 feet of any residential district.
DeRubeis recognized this could raise issues for several local restaurants and bars that have regular live performances and dancing, especially those that schedule weekly events on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The planning board will reserve right to make that decision if the new ordinance is passed by the town council.