On the heels of the village Board of Zoning Appeals’ ruling in May to limit the operating hours of the new Bonefish Grill, lawyers for the restaurant have filed suit to have the decision overturned.
The BZA ruled that Bonefish could be open only from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday through Friday — eliminating weekday lunches — and from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. After the bank’s regular business hours, Bonefish uses the parking of the HSBC bank next door, which is owned by the same landlord. The BZA also required Bonefish to use valets to park patrons’ cars.
Bonefish’s attorney Michael Zapson could not be reached for comment.
Many in the village, including Mayor Francis X. Murray, were happy to hear that the restaurant chain had purchased the old RKO movie theater, which has been vacant for years. But when word spread that Bonefish would try to open for lunch after allegedly saying it wouldn’t, the enthusiasm degenerated into controversy.
Nearby businesses owners and residents applauded the BZA decision, saying that parking in the municipal lot was already difficult, if not impossible, and that adding more vehicles during the day would just make things worse. They also cited the restaurant’s original agreement with the village, which did not include lunch hours.
“I think that when they got their building OK’d, it was on the condition that they would not use daytime parking,” said Jerome Gordon, owner of the nearby Crowne Shop Hallmark Store on Sunrise Highway. “I don’t know if the village would have OK’d them coming in if they had wanted full-time parking.”
Bonefish was originally scheduled to open on April 21, but had to delay the opening because it still needed final approval from the village’s Building Department. It finally opened on June 20. Part of the delay was caused by the restaurant’s need for a zoning variance, which Bonefish’s lawyers argue was not initially required by the village.
Since the controversy over lunchtime hours arose two months ago, the Rockville Centre Chamber of Commerce has been mum on the issue. “This is a very difficult situation for the chamber,” said its president, Barbara Goldfeder, co-manager of Coach Realtors. “I can’t put one business up against another business.”
But other businesses in the village have no such qualms. Many have been vocal in their opposition to Bonefish’s attempt to open for lunch, especially those in close proximity to the restaurant, who would be most heavily impacted by the lack of parking.
“Bonefish said they would never open for lunch, ever,” said Jimmy Trahanas, owner of the Golden Reef Diner across the street. “I was there; that’s what they said. I don’t know what made them change their minds now. The movie theater was never open on weekdays.”
Since the restaurant’s opening last month, nearby businesses have already started to see an increase in traffic. “Everything is jammed up. Everything is filled up,” Trahanas said. “Everything is backed up. There’s no space anymore.”
Gordon said that he only expects the parking situation to get worse. “Other restaurants are using valet parking,” he said. “So it’s going to be a zoo over here.”
Murray declined to comment on the case. The village and Bonefish are scheduled to make their initial appearance in Nassau County Supreme Court on July 14.