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Nov 8, 2016 10:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Bar Will Reopen With New Name, Owner

Donna Cunningham is planning to open The Bays Bar and Grill in the coming weeks. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Nov 8, 2016 3:07 PM

The building that most recently housed Charlie Brown’s Bar and Grill in Hampton Bays will reopen within the next few weeks, though under a new name and owner.

Donna Cunningham of East Yaphank took over the West Montauk Highway property in August and has been working since then to transform it into a new restaurant, which she is renaming The Bays Bar and Grill.

Ms. Cunningham—who worked at Charlie Brown’s as a bartender, on and off, for about eight years in the 2000s—said she envisions her business resembling what the bar was like back in its heyday, when it was run by its original owner, Bob Drescher. A first-time bar and restaurant owner, who recently inked a 10-year lease with Mr. Drescher, who still owns the building, she said she hopes to create a place for locals to hang out with their friends and enjoy a burger and a beer, or play in a darts tournament.

“I’m trying to bring it back to the way it used to be with the original owner,” said Ms. Cunningham as she sat at a table inside her new business last week. “It’s just going to be back to the community bar and grill, so all the regular people have somewhere to go.”

She said she’s also well aware of the recent problems at Charlie Brown’s, when it was run by Luis Tejada. The New York State Liquor Authority revoked his liquor license following a double-stabbing in a nearby parking lot in May that seriously injured two people. Four men—Carlos Gutierrez-Zacupa, 23, of Flanders; Nelvin Ramos-Andrades, 18, of Hampton Bays; Luis Linares-Chavez, 22, of Westhampton; and Marvin Siciliano-Nunez, 19, of Hampton Bays—were charged with the crime but later released by authorities without bail due to a lack of forensic evidence, according to those familiar with the case.

In addition to that incident, Southampton Town Police said they were called to Charlie Brown’s about 40 times between late 2014 and its permanent closing by the SLA in June in response to a variety of issues. Those complaints ranged from minor ones, such as excessive noise and disorderly conduct, to the more serious, like allegations of prostitution and illegal gambling.

“It’s hard because this place has a stigma—that’s why I had to change the name,” said Ms. Cunningham, who already has her new sign installed, directly below the old Charlie Brown’s one that will eventually be removed.

“It used to be a nice place to come, but when he took over it was different,” she added, referring to the most recent owner. “So now I want to bring it back to where it used to be, because we had some really nice people who came in.”

Ms. Cunningham applied for a liquor license on September 22, according to William Crowley, who handles public affairs for the SLA. He explained that his office sent her a deficiency letter on October 31, citing some technical components that were missing from her application. She responded to those concerns last Thursday, November 3, and her application will now be reviewed by the SLA’s licensing board.

Mr. Crowley estimated that the review process could take several weeks. “The day it comes in, I’ll be open,” Ms. Cunningham said of the liquor license.

She has already secured permits from Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting, allowing patrons to bet on horse races, and plans to get a New York State Lottery permit down the road. She explained that she cannot apply for that permit until she secures her liquor license.

In the interim, Ms. Cunningham has spent nearly every day fixing up her new business, noting that she has replaced all of the kitchen appliances and refinished the floors. She’s also completed extensive interior repairs, replacing Sheetrock and repainting the walls a bright white.

“When [Mr. Tejada] left, this place was upside down,” Ms. Cunningham said. “I threw out trash for four days.”

While she does not yet have plans for a grand opening, the new owner said she intends to take things slow, explaining that she wants her business to evolve into a community staple—a place where fundraisers and other events can be held.

“A lot of people know me in town, so they’re, like, ‘Oh, okay, it’s Donna,’” Ms. Cunningham said. “But then there are a lot of people who are, like, ‘Oh, God, is it going to be like how it used to be? Am I going to be tracking girls in here?’ And absolutely not.”

The mother of three also points out that she has never run a restaurant before, explaining that she previously owned a trucking company, JDC Transportation out of Bohemia, with her husband, John. They spent about four years renting semi-trailer trucks when Ms. Cunningham decided that she wanted to start a new chapter of her life.

“I worked in the business for many years, so I’m familiar with the business,” Ms. Cunningham said, referring to the bar and restaurant industry. “And why not? I’ve been working in the business for other people so I said, ‘Why not work for myself?’”

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So does returning it to it's "heyday" include reopening the peep holes into the women's bathroom that Drescher had? Seriously, this place has been a dump for decades.Leave it closed. Hampton Bays has tons of shuttered stores & businesses so why not this one too!
By G (342), Southampton on Nov 8, 16 1:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Define "tons."
Next, explain the mindset that would wish economic distress on a neighboring community.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Nov 8, 16 4:24 PM
5 members liked this comment
Wow G - harsh - maybe you own a bar and you don't want the competition. I applaud this woman for opening a business. It is not going to be easy, but I hope she makes it.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Nov 8, 16 1:27 PM
It can go back to being a place for the white drunks to hang out. Ah, nostalgia!
By 1eastquogueinusa (34), East Quogue on Nov 8, 16 1:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sounds better than prostitutes and gangs!
Good luck Mrs.Cunningham.
By jams (129), hampton bays on Nov 8, 16 2:08 PM
So brown drunks are better..? I'm confused by your comment. Where there's alcohol there will drunk people. Get over it. I wish this woman luck !
Nov 8, 16 4:22 PM appended by Sturgis
*will be
By Sturgis (611), Southampton on Nov 8, 16 4:22 PM
My comment actually meant nothing. It simply used to be a place for white drunks. There is no inner meaning.
By 1eastquogueinusa (34), East Quogue on Nov 8, 16 8:07 PM
All the best to you. I think you'll do fine.
By eastendgemini (7), southampton on Nov 8, 16 1:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good Luck‼️
By RCBT (4), Hampton Bays on Nov 8, 16 2:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Best of Luck!
By dexter831 (6), dexter831 on Nov 8, 16 2:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
To answer PQ1's question, simply take a drive from one end of HB to the other. There is a mostly abandoned shopping center, lots of empty standalone restaurants and empty shops everywhere else. My comment about leaving CB's closed was sarcasm as HB keeps building new crap while large amounts of existing space remains empty...... To answer HBProud/Kathy Dunns comment, I'm not a bar owner. Though I like the knee jerk & stupid assumption! That's the same attitude you and your husband took when singling ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Nov 8, 16 5:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
wow again G - how sad for you that you seem to be such a Negative Nellie - and talk about knee jerk reactions to assume I am someone that I am not. Again, I applaud Ms. Cunningham and anyone that is willing to take the risk to open a business. I wish her all the best.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Nov 8, 16 6:48 PM
3 members liked this comment
Good point! I understand theres a meeting in HB , mid December I believe, they are looking for ideas an thoughts on how to add / improve HB's shopping district .

And best of luck with the new bar and grill!!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Nov 13, 16 8:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
Best of luck to Ms. Cunningham. She is loved by all!
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Nov 9, 16 7:19 AM
Best of luck! PS: Dont let the trolls wear you down lol.
By bluelightning (21), Hampton Bays on Nov 9, 16 8:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Good Luck, Sell Ice Cold Beer, Good Food and have a sign that tells people how to get a UBER Driver to drive them home if needed. Try selling a good Philly Cheese Steak and change the name to the Philly Grill.
By Ernie (88), Hampton Bays on Nov 10, 16 12:17 PM