By Shoshanna McCollum ~ Cherry Grove’s Ice Palace is known for its “underwear parties,” A-list performers like Margaret Cho, and the staging area for drag queens every Fourth of July. On Friday, May 3, the building bore a bright pink notice that it had been condemned. The closure was by order of the Town of Brookhaven Fire Marshal, citing an “unsafe structure” as the reason for this action. Beyond the initial astonishment felt by many, this move has the potential to keep the fabled nightclub closed all summer, as well as its tenant businesses Cherry Grove Pizza and Rainbow Gift Shop, and the Grove Hotel itself, which finally reopened last summer after being destroyed by fire in the spring of 2015.
“This is harassment – they don’t like what goes on in this club,” said an irate Dr. Frank Liguori, owner of the Ice Palace/Grove Hotel compound, in an exclusive interview with Fire Island News.
Liguori explained that the problem is rooted in the Ice Palace’s fire suppression system. The prior system had been a wet sprinkler system, and they were ordered by the Town of Brookhaven to replace it with a dry chemical suppressant system. Dr. Liguori is adamant that he complied with the system conversion as instructed, but that Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman rejected the work, stating that “extensive plans” must be submitted to Brookhaven before they can move forward.
Additionally Liguori says he was ordered to add an extra sprinkler head inside the Grove Hotel during this inspection, when the system as it presently stands was approved last June.
“I am the only hotel in the country that is required to have a fire extinguisher in every room,” Liguori continued. “That is 70 fire extinguishers, all which have to be inspected every year – that’s totally absurd!”
Town of Brookhaven said a representative would telephone us to discuss the matter further, but that call never came. However the public information office did send us several documents including a two-page letter from the chief fire marshal to Liguori dated May 26, 2017. The letter said that a cease and desist order for the Ice Palace had been lifted, and the Place of Assembly permit would be reinstated contingent on the Ice Palace’s compliance with a list of terms, including that the fire suppression system be repaired and extended, with permits required before the said work is undertaken.
A more recent letter dated May 3, 2019, was also in the package. (The day the Ice Palace was condemned.) This letter states that condemnation will only be lifted when:
- The Ice Palace sprinkler system is inspected by a New York State licensed engineer.
- The engineer’s report is submitted to the Division of Fire Prevention.
- A licensed fire alarm contractor performs any and all sprinkler system repairs.
- A permit has been obtained in order for the condemnation order to be lifted.
With over 12,000 views, news of the Ice Palace being shuttered was one of the most widely circulated posts on the Fire Island News Facebook page in recent months. “Lots of years partying at the Ice Palace. A landmark in Cherry Grove,” wrote Rita Addonizio of Northport in the comment thread. But others like John Geraghty of Manorville were less sympathetic, calling the situation a “disaster waiting to happen for years.” Public opinion can be a harsh judge, but the fact is if these anchor Cherry Grove establishments fail to open this summer, a ripple effect will most likely be felt in neighboring Fire Island establishments.
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