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Home Government Tiki Takes 50% More Space in Deal with Astorino

Tiki Takes 50% More Space in Deal with Astorino

Playland Tiki Bar map 01-2011

The Playland Tiki Bar is running up a tab for more primo county property. In a deal worked out with Astorino and supported by Rye Mayor French, the Tiki Bar will increase in size by nearly 50% to 15,500 square feet, approximately 4,500 square feet larger than approved in 2009.

A decision about expansion had been delayed last fall after residents expressed concern about what once reader called a metastasizing Tiki Bar. In a MyRye.com reader poll, 82% of readers were against the expansion.

Do you support a bigger Tiki Bar? Leave a comment below.

French told MyRye.com "The County has followed through on its commitment to listen to the concerns of Rye and put forth remedies with the Pier Restaurant.  The primary issues were public access, security and noise based on feedback from residents, Councilwoman Parker and me, and our Playland Advisory Committee.  Changes to the license agreement as well as heightened coordination with Park Management will improve the situation, and the County is committed to monitoring and managing these and other issues through the season."

The final changes were approved 3-0 by the County Board of Acquisition and Contract on Friday. Here are the details of the agreement as outlined by County Exec Astorino:

"Let me begin by sincerely thanking you for contacting me regarding the Pier Restaurant at Playland.  I have heard your concerns and, as a result, have reached an agreement with the owner that will ensure public access to all areas of the boardwalk and pier.

By way of background, the existing five year license agreement with 181 New England Seafood Corporation (Pier Restaurant and Tiki Bar) was negotiated by the administration of former County Executive Andrew Spano and approved by the County’s Board of Acquisition and Contract, which is comprised of the County Executive, the Chairman of the Board of Legislators and the Commissioner of Public Works.  It was passed unanimously on February 19, 2009 and on April 16, 2009 with no comment from Mr. Spano or any member of the Board of Legislators.

The Pier Restaurant, in its first year of operation, proved to be a tremendous success:

  • 184 jobs created
  • License Fees to the County in 2010 amounting to $111,009.32 (5% of Gross Sales)
  • Sales Tax to the County in 2010 amounting to $163,738
  • A majority of food vendors are Westchester based companies
  • Capital improvements to the existing facility, as well as a floating dock, ramp and moorings were completed by the Licensee.  The improvements are valued at substantially more than the $500,000 that was originally proposed.

The success of the Pier Restaurant over its first season required the County Parks Department to implement adjustments that would accommodate both patrons of the Pier Restaurant and members of the public.  The adjustments included fencing and roping in designated areas and allowing the restaurant to utilize additional outdoor seating.

In determining what would be acceptable to the County in any amendment to the license the County wished to balance the importance of public access to open space with a successful, public-private partnership.

Accordingly, after hearing from residents and elected officials, meeting with the Licensee, as well as staff from the Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation and the Department of Public Safety, I am prepared to support an amendment that allows for a limited expansion of the Pier Restaurant in exchange for unfettered public access to the pier and boardwalk. Attached please find a map detailing this proposal:

“A” is the area currently subject to this license and it is not proposed to change.

“B” is an area that was previously subject to the license agreement but the Licensee has agreed to relinquish this space in order to guarantee public access to the pier by the public.  This area will be specifically designated in the written agreement.  In addition, the gates to the pier, in both the licensed area and the public access area, are under the control of the County and have not been, nor will they be, closed other than for public safety reasons.

“B1” is an area that the Licensee was given access to for table seating during the 2010 season.  The owner has agreed not to seek the use of this area and it will not be part of the future license amendment.

“C” is an area which currently is not being used by Westchester County but had been prior to 2010 for a summer concert series. This area does not interfere with the boardwalk in any way, has a definite boundary, and is separate from the boardwalk.

“D” will be a specific fenced or roped off area on the boardwalk extending along the front side of the restaurant and will be used as a waiting area for patrons, thus alleviating any congestion on the boardwalk or pier.

“E” consists of both existing and new licensed space that will be used for kitchen expansion and increased restroom facilities.

“F” will be an area that the Pier Restaurant will be granted permission under the amended license to place one row of tables.  The specific dimensions of this area will be identified in the License Amendment.  It should be noted that the placing of tables in this area over the past year did not result in the closure of the Seaside Walk.  The gate at the north end of this area was closed for a period of time to install fencing and repair the seawall and walkway, which was significantly damaged during the high wind and rain storms in March, 2010.  This gate will remain open for public access.

The size of the amended license is estimated to be 15,500 square feet, approximately 4,500 square feet larger than approved in 2009.  Much of this was permitted last year but will now be part of the written agreement (i.e., moving tables from the pier to the side of the Ice Casino building).

Under the current License Agreement the Licensee pays the County a minimum fee ($30,000 in years 1-3 and $40,000 in years 4-5) or a percentage of the gross receipts (5% in years 1-2 and 6% in years 3-5), whichever is greater.

The financial arrangement of the proposed amendment is to increase the minimum license fee to $45,000 in years 2 and 3 and to $60,000 in years 4 and 5.  The formula for a percentage of gross receipts remains in effect.

You should also know that Mr. Ambrose, on his own, has hired a private security firm to work in cooperation with county police to assure a safe and healthy environment for residents and patrons.

I have met with Rye Mayor Doug French, who supports the compromises and amendment to the License.  As such, it will be on the Board of Acquisition and Contract agenda for a vote on Friday, January 28th.

Thank you again for your input, comments, and suggestions on this important matter to the residents of Rye and the entire County.


Robert P. Astorino, County Executive"


  1. This is SAD!
    I wonder if Astorino or French have ever eaten the food that Ambrose serves his customers.

    It amazes me that these 2 Restaurants are still in business!

    I guess location is more important than quality.

    The FOOD SUCKS, way OVER PRICED, and the Service is just as bad, you have to drink from plastic, it’s like going to a H.S. keg party!!!

    I wonder how the RAT control is handled?

  2. What changed? I thought this decision was delayed because of the strong public reaction AGAINST this possibly happening? The Ambrose restaurants are unfortunate places to eat. Why has he been granted a bigger greasy overpriced grip on our most beautiful locations?

  3. Does anyone know how John Ambrose won the right to have a restaurant in TWO places on the waterfront? What was the process by which he was chosen? It is hard to imagine that most restaurant owners and entrepreneurs wouldn’t covet a location like this. How could one person, especially one with a restaurant that has received some of the lowest zagat ratings possible, have managed such a coup?

    Does anyone know what or how this arrangement was made in the first place?

  4. RyeMom,

    These contracts go up for bid whenever they expire.
    Do not know the exact time that exist on the contracts.
    Since Mr.Ambrose seems to ALWAYS win these bids, he must have an INSIDE TRACK so he is always able to outbid his competitors!!!

    Would also love to know who he IS PAYING UNDER THE TABLE!!!!

    Even the food he doesn’t prepare(frozen) SUCKS!!!

  5. To all the angry haters of the tiki bar

    It seems to me that there is a bias here against John and his establishment. I agree the food is sub par and prices are high, but I would never go there expecting anything else. A fruity drink and a great view is why I would go there. One day last summer Johns launch service picked us up from our boat, we watched the ball game on a huge TV, had overpriced frozen drinks and then were delivered back to our boat. Perfect night . I didnt expect anything more or less, nor should you. Funny, I never here anyone complaining about Sullivans restaurants charging $14 dollars for a small watered down vodka drink???..The tiki bar is what it is, dont expect more and you wont be so upset..

  6. Hey

    I agree that the food and drinks are way overpriced, view or no view. I personally dont go there for the food or the cocktails. It is just a cool spot to hang out, watch a game, or listen to a band in the summer, some nights. If we are going to start complaining about the obscene prices of things here in Rye, I would think the list would be quite large. John’s restaurant would be one of a 100 things. No? Don’t here anybody here complaining about a $19 bowl of plain pasta with butter at Auroa, or a $22 salad at Rubys. Just felt The Tiki was being singled out for something that has been going on, on purchase street, for years.

  7. Focus,

    When the Rye Grille reopened everyone was on myrye whipping that place up and down the block, me included!

    Yes, John and his establishment is being singled out and rightfully so!

    They have made dirty dealings w/county officials for Landmark property! I don’t know who is worse….ASTORINO or AMBROSE!!!
    The guy is a cry baby!

  8. Hey A A C

    If the debate is about wrongful acts by John and how he achieved the permits to open his restaurant, I have zero knowledge on that entire process and the situation. I was just responding to the question of his prices, service and food. When you asked me about what I meant in regard to his prices and the view, I assumed you were continuing that point. Don’t know anything about his accused dirty deals, nor do I care. I am new here so any bashing of The Grille was done before my time. Good luck with your pursuit of the evil Tiki master…

  9. The Tiki bar is far from perfect and food is certainly below average. That being said, it is a huge improvement over the dilapidated shack that was there before. I didn’t see anyone else putting the kind of money and improvements into the businesses in the area the Ambrose has. It’s a nice place to stop for a beer and watch the sunset. Until I see someone with a better plan, I’m happy to have it.

  10. Focus, RyeMom,

    Focus, FTR – I would much rather pay extra for QUALITY food than pay extra for CRAPPY food!!!

    RyeMom, Ambrose and Astorino are Buddies, close friends! This should answer all your questions….fill in the blanks!

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