It's Thursday May 23, 2013
June 6, 2012
Oriental’s Town Boad Tuesday night granted a Special Use Permit to The Steamer Restaurant to operate as a gaming hall as well as a restaurant. That formalized what had been happening at the Steamer in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Steamer owner Jeff Tomczak added the pool tables and games of chance last fall and continued to sell beer and wine after his restaurant business ceased because of the hurricane’s flooding.
Adding the gaming constituted a change of use under the Town’s ordinances. More than half a year after it happened, the Town held an SUP hearing Tuesday night.Games of Chance and Odds of Noise
Board members had some questions about the nature of the gaming – there are two machine poker games – but most of the discussion and public hearing comments dwelt on what happened outside the restaurant-bar-gaming hall and the owner’s ability to control that.
Two Broad Street neighbors testified at the public hearing. Patty Rosencrantz said that the Steamer was quieter than it had been before Hurricane Irene when the bar sold hard liquor and often had music playing and dancing. She noted that the clientele was younger and more contained than before . She told the Board she could hear more noise coming from the Tiki Bar three blocks away than from the Steamer across Broad Street from where she is living.Neighbor Describes Past “Hell”
Another neighbor, Tim Rogers, detailed a variety of disturbances from the Steamer that over the years have woken his family. He described it as “hell”, brought on largely by patrons outside the building. From their porch across Broad Street, Rogers said he and his wife have witnessed fights, drug deals, gun fire, domestic violence, drug use and oral sex.
Rogers said that while things had gotten quieter since Hurricane Irene and the Steamer’s emphasis on gaming, there were still some problems. Police officer Dwaine Moore said he was called out on three occasions this year – once last week – because of noisy patrons and music emanating from the gaming hall. Asked how loud the music was, Moore told the Board, “If I can park in the Pamlico News parking lot” which is a block away, “and can hear it, it’s too loud.”
Tim Rogers told the Board that if an SUP were granted, he wanted assurances that the Steamer’s business would “stay inside the building and not spill out on to the street.” He said the Steamer’s owner to more closely monitor what goes on in the parking lot, and tell lingering patrons that they should “come back in the building or leave.”Gaming Found To Be In Harmony
The rules on SUPs say that the Town can turn down an SUP for one of six reasons. Among them, if the use would be a danger to public health or safety, substantially hurt adjoining or abutting property value or if it were not “in harmony with existing development .. in the area.”
The Town Board did not go through the list individually and instead voted 4-0 to grant the SUP for the Steamer to be set up as a gaming hall as well as a restaurant.Town Board Sets Stipulations For Steamer
The Board also laid out several stipulations to address the disturbance issues for neighbors. Among them, that no chairs and tables be set out in front on Broad Street, that “No Loitering” signs be placed in the parking lot, that signs inside state that alcohol cannot be brought outside, that the smoking porch off the back of the building not have speakers and that the front door be kept closed to keep the noise contained.Steamer Owner: Hard Liquor Returning
In his comments to the board, the Steamer owner, Jeff Tomczak told the Board he was the only establishment in town opened til 2a and he spoke of offering something his customers wanted. He also said that he was planning to sell (hard) liquor by the drink again once some permits come through. (State alcohol laws dictate that to sell hard liquor, a business has to meet a certain level of sales of food from its kitchen. The Steamer’s kitchen had been ruined in Irene.)2AM Last Call Questioned
There was some discussion among Board members about setting an earlier closing time for bars, which now can stay opened til 2a.
Commissioner Sherrill Styron noted that he didn’t “have a problem with a game room” which was, technically speaking, the focus of Tuesday’s hearing. But Styron said, “I do have a problem with drinking late at night.”
In the Commissioners’ comment period at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Barbara Venturi began to suggest that the matter be sent to the Planning Board to consider setting a new closing hour for all bars in Oriental. Mayor Bill Sage suggested that it be put off to the July Town Board meeting to give time to write something up.