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Mar 30, 2010 7:31 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Fairway Restaurant closed after 20 years

Mar 30, 2010 7:31 PM

At breakfast on Sunday morning, it seemed that every customer at the Fairway Restaurant in Sagaponack polished off hearty portions of eggs and bacon, paid their checks, and hugged the chef on the way out the door.

The food at the Fairway is good, but the emotional adieus on Sunday were rooted in lament rather than appreciation of a perfect over-easy.

Sunday was the last day of business for the tiny cafe at the Poxabogue golf course and driving range, and after its nearly 20 years in residence, a legion of regular customers was there to pay respects.

“We raised all four of our grandchildren here, and we watched Danny’s kids grow up here,” nearly tearful patron Pam Levy said of owner Dan Murray as she paid her check and gave longtime Fairway chef Michael Grant a long hug. “It’s like an appendage. Everything in East Hampton has changed. Here, they kept it the way it used to be. Now it’s going to change too.”

The fate of the Fairway was sealed last Thursday when a personal appeal by members of the Southampton Town Board failed to convince Poxabogue’s manager, Ed Wankel, to adjust the terms of the restaurant’s lease. Mr. Murray has said the terms of the lease offered to him by Mr. Wankel, who was awarded a five-year management contract by the towns of Southampton and East Hampton in 2007, are unfairly restrictive of his business.

“It’s despicable what they’re doing to him,” longtime customer Sandy Keidan said on Sunday.

Southampton and East Hampton towns purchased the Poxabogue property in 2003, using money from the Community Preservation Fund to save the golf facility, the only public golf facility in Southampton Town, from residential development. After negotiating annual leases for the restaurant space with Mr. Murray for four years, in 2007 the towns agreed to include control over the restaurant lease in the management contract for the entire property.

The differences between Mr. Murray and Mr. Wankel appeared to be as much personal as professional, and members of the Southampton Town Board said it seemed as though Mr. Wankel’s refusal to restore Mr. Murray’s lease—or give control of the restaurant lease back to the Town Board, as was offered in the last-ditch appeal—went beyond the parameters of business, as board members reminded Mr. Wankel that his own future at Poxabogue would be up for reconsideration by the towns in three years.

“We made it very clear that we would prefer to see Dan stay,” said Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who spearheaded the efforts to convince Mr. Wankel to renew Mr. Murray’s lease in recent months. “I don’t fully understand the reasoning behind his decision. He keeps reiterating that his offer was refused, and that he had proceeded forward, looking elsewhere, and that’s the direction he wants to continue to go.”

Whatever the reasons, a new operator will be moving into the Fairway space. Mr. Wankel, who has not responded to numerous calls seeking comment in recent weeks, told board members last fall that he had already reached a lease agreement with the owner of the Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck to take over the space.

Customers were mixed in their predictions about whether they would find a home with the new owners.

“I’m not coming here anymore,” said Kelly Bailey as she paid her check on Sunday. “This is the last time.”

Plans by Mr. Wankel to expand the building and service offerings at the restaurant have met with stiff resistance from Town Board members and the Village of Sagaponack, which will have regulatory authority over any changes to be made. Mr. Nuzzi said the towns—as the property’s owners—have made it clear they do not want to see any expansions or changes at the property. He said he expects there to be “disagreements” about what would constitute expansions compared to the “improvements” that the management contract require be made.

Mr. Murray circled the tiny dining room on the last day of business the old way, often sitting down at the squat counter stools or tables with regulars, offering assurances to his loyal followers and friends that he’ll find 
another spot for his cafe. He moved
 his business twice in a six-month period in 2003 when the property’s former owners bickered with the town over development plans. As he was peppered with offers to purchase the “1st Tee” sign, a rough-hewn relic of the tiny golf course’s early days in business, Mr. Murray said he is eyeing a pair of local
 restaurant spaces as possible new homes.

“I’m going to get out of here and then focus on getting Montauk opened,” Mr. Murray said of the restaurant he also runs at the Montauk Downs State Park golf course. “Then we’ll see what we can work out for a new spot. I’ve got some interesting ideas.”

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Another piece of what made the East End great is going to be lost forever; this is a very sad day! But kudos to the towns back in 2003 to have saved us from another winding lane of 5 acre vacation estates. Good Luck Dan - you did good !

By SagHarborBob (91), Sag Harbor on Mar 28, 10 6:15 AM
I don't get it. Southampton town and east Hampton own the property. The residents want it yet someone whos salary is paid by taxpayers decides to do what he wants against our wishes. Sounds like wankel may actually be Tim bishop
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Mar 28, 10 7:36 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By das (2), sh on Mar 28, 10 9:14 PM
Not Tim Bishop--you can thank Skip Heany for Wankel--it was his friend that he pushed with his cronies to get Wankel an extension of his contract that gave him the power to pick the entity to run the food--he performance in his original contract was questionable at best
By das (2), sh on Mar 28, 10 9:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good luck Dan. Poxabogue will not be the same without you. We will miss you.
By Hamptons TV (4), East hampton on Mar 28, 10 8:10 AM
It absolutely amazes me that after all the many hours spent on preserving our communities so as not to be overtaken by the “McMansions” that we turn yet another gem over to be run by someone “outside” of the Community once again for the sake of money. Mr. Murray is and has been an intrical part of this Community for years – employing hard working “local” residents and in order to thank him we take his business away and hand it over to a “A new vendor, the owners of the Love Lane Café in Mattituck”. ...more
By Audra (1), Sag Harbor on Mar 28, 10 8:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Horrible. Ed Wankel needs to be fired.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Mar 28, 10 8:38 AM
I agree lets fire the Poxabogue’s manager, Ed Wankel.

What the towns doing????
By Bel (86), southampton on Mar 28, 10 8:55 AM
My opinion is Dan was treated lousy, he should go and rent a place close to poxie and put them out of business,if not that we shouldn't go there anymore.
By john o (34), southampton on Mar 28, 10 9:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
Wankels contract has two more years so one year from now we need to start speaking with our Town Board--I think they are on board--we also need to NOT support the new entity at Poxy
By das (2), sh on Mar 28, 10 9:16 PM
Let's be creative. Extend Wankel's lease by a year or two in turn for Mr. Murray signing a rational lease. I will personally not return to Poxaboque for breakfast
By mjw1121 (1), Bridgehampton on Mar 28, 10 9:57 AM
My first car wass a Mazda rx3. It had a Wankel rotary engine in it. The knock on the engine was it was great for 70,000 miles and then it just falls apart. I put 71,000 and thought I would be the exception. No way it just broke down. I hope Mr. Wankel is not related to the design of that engine, but it looks like the same philosophy. good for the short term mentality. Ironic.
We seek to preserve the East End by buying up LAND. There needs to be a change of focus its PEOPLE that need to be preserved. ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Mar 28, 10 10:24 AM
Excuse me Mr. Schepps, but in the interests of coherent thought, what the heck are you talking about?
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Mar 28, 10 11:37 AM
Fire Mr. Wankel
By LUVSH (28), Southampton on Mar 28, 10 11:41 AM
My opinion is Dan was treated lousy, he should go and rent a place close to poxie and put them out of business,if not that we shouldn't go there anymore.
By john o (34), southampton on Mar 28, 10 12:23 PM
put them out of business??? As tax payers we own poxie.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Mar 28, 10 1:22 PM
It is just plain wrong to lose someone like Dan from our community especially to a non-community member.
Its time to protect another old freind of the community and breakfast with Gus at Candy Kitchen!!
By S/H Downunder (1), Southampton on Mar 28, 10 1:14 PM
Losing the fabulous Danny Murray and his community minded approach, is just another sad comment on the politicians and the money rules all philosophy.
By Nancy Q. (27), east Hampton on Mar 28, 10 2:23 PM
OK. As I understand it, Southampton and East Hampton Townships purchased the golf course to prevent it from being subdivided for building lots. They let the concessionaire account out for bids and Wankel won.

If my understanding is correct, there is one course for the Southampton/Easthampton conglomerate to follow. Eject Mr. Wankel and void the contract. This will be expensive if the issue ever goes to trial, but the odds are that Mr. Wankel will settle for a substantial amount of ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 28, 10 2:26 PM
What a shame this has happened, next thing you know you will have to be a "member" to go and hit golf balls there or to play a round of golf. Unacceptable
By DJ9222 (85), southampton on Mar 28, 10 2:48 PM
It's not like the place is being thrown to the NYC wolves. A local involved company will take it over and run it just as nice I am sure. You folks are never happy with anything and it's a sad thing so see such arm chair critics. I suggest if you don"t like it out here anymore, move to North Carolina or back country Tennessee, where time is still standing still. It seems to me that the previous tenant did not want to discuss the proposed lease and the changes than the management wanted to see ...more
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Mar 28, 10 3:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
BIGjimbo12 Mattituck Love Lane is not local to this community. I hope Mr. Murray does open up another place and puts them out of business. Shame on Southampton and East Hampton Towns for letting this happen.
By favaunt (24), Sag Harbor on Mar 28, 10 6:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By favaunt (24), Sag Harbor on Mar 28, 10 6:02 PM
Hey "Mr. Barberosa" is that a reference to the old western movie with Rachael Welch. As so far as my post try reading it again. The Wankel engine was a short sighted gimick to make some short term cash. Mr Wankel was granted a contract for a short term and his point of view is not the long term. All these posts seem to suggest a value in Dan Murray because he has been here for a long time and is considered a local. Love lane on the nort fork is not. I get that so we all need to put the pressure ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Mar 28, 10 7:18 PM
It's a damn shame! The restaurant will certainly be missed.

BTW, BigJimbo12-: I couldn't tell you what the food at the Mattituck Love Lane Deli is like because we walked out on THREE separate occasions waiting for service, after being completely ignored! The service is horrendous and I have no reason to believe it will change in this location.

Typical lousy deal from the town.
By elliot (254), sag harbor on Mar 28, 10 8:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Mar 28, 10 11:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Both the owner and manager of Love Lane Kitchen live in the Town of Southampton year round, own their own homes and pay RE taxes. They also don"t go to Florida in the winter - they work! They are locals.
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Mar 28, 10 11:05 PM
its simple. In two years Wankel is gone. If need be the town's should hire the staff as employees and run the place. Mr. Murray is unfortunately the casualty of a bad contract three years ago. Another gift, at least partially left to us, by the previous administartion in East Hampton.
By hohum123 (91), springs on Mar 28, 10 10:03 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Mar 28, 10 11:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Is it just me or is this how business works? There was a lease agreement between two partners, at the termination of the lease, the terms of the lease changed and the leasee didn't want to agree to the new terms. That's business and what makes this country great. If I sign a lease for an apartment for $1000 a month, and in 5 years at the end of the lease, the landlord raises it to $1250 does that make him a jerk? Should he be fired? It's not like the lease was broken. And as BIGjimbo12 points ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 28, 10 11:52 PM
I have only been at the Sag Harbor Golf Course once and probably never eaten at its luncheonette. However, some people seem upset by the fact that the new terms of the lease that the Southampton Town/East Hampton Town combine have afforded Mr. Wankel permit him to force out a tenant who is running a nice shop, according to reports.

As has also been stated, this is the American Way. Taking advantage of a commercial opponent by virtue of a superior posiion is just good business. However, ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 29, 10 4:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
Poxabogue not Sag Harbor. I'll buy you lunch there tomorrow.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 29, 10 5:58 PM
"highhatsize" gets the picture except those who made the deal are no longer in office or are under invesigation for mis use of CPF monies (I think I'm repeating myself here). What "Nature" fails to report is that the tenant was (as a condition of signing a new lease) to make capital improvements to property that he OR the leasor (Mr. Wankel) does not own. That is like your landlord saying that your rent goes up 250 per month (your example) and you must build me a new deck. The new proposed lease ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Mar 29, 10 9:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
Voiding the Heaney/EH contract with Wankel may be expensive and time-consuming IMO. Let's make sure the current SH/EH Town Boards don't continue this pattern of possible cronyism.

Patronage at the revamped restaurant this summer will make it or break it.

Speak with your dollars, and picket signs. ("Yank the Wankel?")

If business is lousy this summer, Dan Murray may be able to take the refurbished restaurant back under HIS terms.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 29, 10 11:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Mar 29, 10 4:44 PM
aw, I guess the editor didn't like my use of the word "political"....see for yourselves...google "Global Golf"...see what Mr Wankel's all about... Why was this so hard for the towns to figure out? Maybe I can repeat the suggestion that there should be a lot of used "Yank Wankel" signs out there in Islip and Brookhaven without it being deleted!
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Mar 29, 10 6:13 PM
paying a landlord a huge percentage of the gross sales and other "service charges" as part of a new lease is not a good deal - anyone can see that the new terms represented a force out!!
By egv44 (5), Southampton on Mar 29, 10 11:38 AM
Fire Wankel. Boycott the restaurant. The taxpayers of East Hampton and Southampton own this property. Let's show the politicians that we don't like what they are doing. Bring back Dan
By housewife (79), east hampton on Mar 29, 10 1:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Although I agree with you that we should fire Wankel boycotting the restaurant makes no sense. We all own it. If it loses money it will cost the taxpayers.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Mar 30, 10 9:21 AM
Dan Rattiner for town supervisor!!!
He wrote how to resolve this and wouldn’t have let this happened
By Joe V (2), bridgehampton on Mar 29, 10 1:34 PM
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Mar 29, 10 2:26 PM
Is the 'deal' with the operator really as simple as 5 years (with 2 or 3 to go) at the end of which popular can/will will force him out? I suspect that he would not enter into such a contract without renewal options that are his to exercise, and that the Towns will be powerless to stop any renewal simply because folks are 'mad as hell'. Does anyone know the facts?
Vote with your feet.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Mar 29, 10 6:44 PM
I highly doubt that a vocal minority will force anyone out. The millions that the Town would pay out to break the contract with the management company would scare off both towns. It is simple once you break through the comments here, Dan did not agree to the terms in a new lease that was offered to him and he opted out. Dan was given the right of first refusal and at any time he could have simply signed the new lease and he would still be operating today. Such a small issue with so many negative ...more
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Mar 30, 10 9:35 AM
fire wankel
By kuali (32), southampton on Mar 30, 10 9:50 AM
""Everybody is on board that we don't want this to happen," Nuzzi repeated to me on Friday. "We all love Danny. I've been going there for years."

I just got the above quote from the January 29, 2010 issue of Dan's Paper. The speaker is Chris Nuzzi, supposed pointman for dealing with the Fairway Restaurant. The speech is almost identical to the standard one that I posted above that lawyers all use when foreclosing.

The article makes it clear that neither Nuzzi nor anybody else ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 30, 10 11:37 AM
I know the Love Lane Folks from Mattituck and they are the greatest! I think they will do well here.
By artizt101 (29), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 10 2:11 PM
While many of you may be saddened at the prospect of a favorite restaurant closing, it's not as if it is being replaced with a disgusting chain restaurant like a Denny's. The Love Lane kitchen is a fine establishment and fits in perfectly with the Hamptons vibe. There is nothing preventing Mr. Murray from opening a new restaurant in the Hamptons.

Do any of you remember the "uproar" over the BBQ place across the street from Poxabogue? Many local property owners in the surrounding area ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 10 2:51 PM
I see what your saying.....the Love Lane folks are good people too. Good for them. That uproar you speak of made about the BBQ place was by the summer rich folks worried about smoked-bbq smoke coming across their 5 acres lots!! This is about throwing a good man out who runs a great, affordable place for locals. There was never a "Hamptons vibe" at the fairway and we dont ever want one. This is not about the "establishment". Its about people. We are slowly losing the people that made this ...more
By YEAROUNDER (81), East Hampton on Mar 30, 10 3:39 PM
Best of luck to you Dan. We have enjoyed many a fine meal in your Poxabogue and Montauk establishments. Well done.

If you start another restaurant, maybe you could offer a Poxie discount to start things off!

When one door closes, another opens.

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 30, 10 4:45 PM
To Nature (Hampton Bays)

In case you have not notice..this is about supporting somebody that the community cares about.....I think Mr. Murray have done something.. right that is why people are defending him....I can not say the same about many other business owners.....
By Bel (86), southampton on Mar 30, 10 7:54 PM
Whatever.... What we need around here is a Cracker Barrel.Thats a good breakfast!....Oh wait, I forgot their not allowed here. They are a evil chain store. Sorry. I forgot the local rules for a minute. Silly me I should move up island if I don't like the way it is around here ....Lol
By 27dan (2854), south hampton on Mar 30, 10 9:43 PM
Oh and by the way Nature you should probably come with me
By 27dan (2854), south hampton on Mar 30, 10 9:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Love those pancakes!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 30, 10 10:03 PM
And the fruit cake too I bet
By 27dan (2854), south hampton on Mar 31, 10 7:52 PM
I think the town made a big mistake, I think Dan should go and talk to his lawyer before loking for a new place because you got some lawsuit
john o
By john o (34), southampton on Apr 1, 10 1:44 PM
and tell him what, that he didn't want to sign the lease that was given to him? he refused to sign the new lease with the new terms so what is his cause of action..stupidity?
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Apr 1, 10 9:47 PM
Did the Love Lane (Mike & Jen) Company get offered the same terms as Mr. Murray if so what is the problem? I understand that Mr. Murray has been there 20 years but that doesn’t give him carte blanch on a lease. If the terms are so restrictive then the Love Lane concern will not do well and in turn Mr. wankle also will not do well. As a joint venture between EH & SH towns we have the say Mr. Wankles lease is up soon make your voice & vote count!!
By Bwana (9), Sag Harbor on Apr 2, 10 1:52 PM
The whole management company should get thrown out. Has the Town really looked in to how they run the entire property? Or are they just looking at dollars and sense? What good is a driving range that's only open until 4PM??!!
By YEAROUNDER (81), East Hampton on Apr 5, 10 1:38 PM