A popular car show staged on the grounds of the Milleridge Inn is no more after a dispute between the organizer and the property’s owner.
Butch Yamali, co-owner of Dover Group, which assumed ownership of the historic Jericho restaurant and catering hall last year, said he decided to end the Inn’s weekly Cruise Night effective immediately after reevaluating the arrangement with organizer NY Auto Fest and its representative Leo Cerruti.
“It started to grow into a moneymaking thing for Leo,” said Yamali. “We set it up, we cleaned it up and he’s collecting money. How much are they collecting? How much are they donating? These are things we didn’t have answers to.”
According to an email obtained by the Oyster Bay Enterprise-Pilot, Milleridge Inn general manager Rich Wykerd informed Cerruti that Yamali and co-owner Tony Capetola wanted 50 percent of the gross from the entrance fee from drivers in order to cover staff costs involved with setting up and breaking down the event each week.
When Cerruti’s offer of 20 percent of the gross was rejected, he made a second offer of 40 percent of the net income, which was also rejected. Cerruti said that Yamali then demanded that NY Auto Fest pay $1,250 up front the day of the event every week.
“That would be impossible to pay even on our busiest night,” said Cerruti. “In my opinion, he gave me this impossible number simply because they wanted to shut it down and they knew that number would shut it down.”
The decision to shut down the Cruise Night came on Tuesday, Sept. 6, giving Cerruti less than a day to alert attendees of the event’s permanent cancellation. But for Yamali, making sure his company was properly compensated was the only option.
“I’m a car collector myself and I thought this was a great way to get people to come see the facility and see the changes and how we were improving,” he said. “That was the intention, to bring people together at this historic place. Not to make Leo money.”
Meanwhile, Cerruti said he does not hold these Cruise Nights to line his pockets and any cash collected at the gate paid expenses, while a portion will go to charities at the end of the year.
“This was free advertising for them and if they weren’t happy with that, I think 40 percent was a very fair offer,” said Cerruti. “I still can’t figure out why they decided to go this route.”
NY Auto Fest is currently looking for a new venue to host its Cruise Night on Wednesday.