New owners eye hotel plan

John Christensen
Sarrasin's will reopen on April 1. By mid-summer, the downstairs bar will be open for customers who want a casual atmosphere.

Sarrasin’s is being reborn as “New Sarrasin’s” when it reopens for business April 1, with a grand opening scheduled for May 15.

Four partners in Finger Lakes Area Inn and Restaurant (FLAIR) Inc. are the new proprietors of the Lake Street restaurant in Penn Yan.

FLAIR Inc. has reached an agreement with Robert Pfuntner for the purchase of the restaurant on its 2.5 acre lot, with a one year exclusive option to purchase the vacant 7.5 acres next to it.

The partners plan for the restaurant to become part of a hotel and conference center to be built on the site of the former Empire Wine Co., later occupied by the Johnson Costello American Legion Post.

Tammy Havens, the partner who will be in charge of restaurant operations, has brought a new plan and energy to the Keuka lakefront restaurant. There will be a new menu with an emphasis on steaks and seafood, but with a few selected favorites carried over, and an overall commitment to keeping prices down. A frozen drinks bar and a selection of specialty coffees will also be featured.

With a new chef, plus kitchen and wait staff, Havens said that quality service will be a priority. New Sarrasin’s will be open Sundays with a breakfast buffet and a “Simply Sunday Menu,” but closed Mondays and Tuesdays except for corporate use and private functions. Tom Wise will be staying on as director of catering and special events.

Plans are in the works to open the downstairs bar by midsummer to cater to the boating traffic. Navigation buoys will assist in docking.

“The old days had people coming off the lake in bathing suits sitting next to people in business suits.  It didn’t really work,” said Havens, adding, “This will solve that problem. The atmosphere will be less formal.”

The longer range plans to build a 100-room hotel plus training and conference center on the adjacent site have earned the optimistic hopes of the partners and are getting the attention of local leaders in government and business who are just beginning to learn about the concept.

One of the hurdles to be gotten over will be the size of the Lake Street sewer line. According to Havens, the current six inch line at Sarrasin’s cannot accommodate the needs of a hotel of such size and a 10 inch line would be necessary for its purposes.

Penn Yan’s waterfront development plan outlines the future improvement of services between the Outlet and Lake Street, including sewers, in three different scenarios, one of which includes a hotel on the proposed site, as well as condominiums, commercial space and public facilities. Retired Penn Yan Village Director of Public Works Dick Osgood recalled that the costs estimated for the improvements in the plan were just shy of $2 million. He added, “What’s there now works. But we are treating stormwater inflow and infiltration (I & I) that we don’t need to treat. Reducing the I & I might make (a main less than 10”) a viable option.”

Director of Public Works Brent Bodine had not been contacted by FLAIR Inc., but did say that the one year timeframe to work out a solution was very reasonable. Bodine said via e-mail:

“In August of 2009 the Village of Penn Yan, in cooperation with Yates County, had Hunt Engineers perform a Utility Assessment considering three possible scenarios for the development of the Penn Yan Boat Factory site and surrounding lands.  The assessment collected documentation on the capacities of the existing utilities for Public Water System, Water Supply, Water Storage, Water Distribution, Sanitary Sewer Collection System, Sanitary Pumping Station, Wastewater Treatment, Electric Supply and Distribution and Storm Water Management. Then based on that documentation and in consideration of the additional demands the three scenarios Ingalls Planning and Development had created for the site would put on those utilities a number of options were considered and developed to the point of identifying required permitting and estimated construction costs.

“Obviously the actual choices made by the Village to address these utility concerns will greatly depend on the actual development of the property.  But, I do believe that the Village is prepared to make good decisions in addressing our utility needs in this area as a result of having this study done and looks forward to the day we can sit down with whomever is ready to talk about specific utility needs.”

Village Trustee Wayne Davidson, a member of the waterfront development committee,  is confident the necessary infrastructure will be built once the funding is worked out.

While supportive of the development idea, Penn Yan Mayor Robert Church said, “The village simply cannot afford to do this without something coming back to us. The sales taxes it (the hotel) would collect don’t make it to the village.”