Lack of Foresight On Outdoor Crowds

A disaster waiting to happen

   Buried within a proposed revision of the rules governing entertainment at bars and restaurants in the Town of East Hampton is a disaster waiting to happen. At a hearing at 7 tonight in Town Hall, the board is to consider “outdoor occupancy” limits, in places where there is live music, a D.J., or other events, without regard to the location or zoning of each establishment.
    Back in March when the proposed law began to take shape, we and others said it would be a mistake to allow up to one patron per seven square feet of deck and/or surrounding grounds without obtaining some concessions from those establishments in certain areas. At the top of the list would be setting more restrictive limits outside the town’s central business zones. Also, adequate off-street parking should be mandatory when businesses are on lots that do not conform to zoning. In no way should these places’ successes become their neighbors’ problems.
    With several of the town’s more troublesome nightspots on or immediately adjacent to residential property, the town board must take homeowners into consideration. One way might be to cut off music at an earlier hour in residential zones; as it stands, outdoor music would be allowed townwide until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 on Friday and Saturday. Nearly midnight may be fine in downtown Montauk, for example, but it is too late elsewhere. Doing the math, the maximum of one person for each seven square feet should be cut in half, if not more, in residential zones.
    The revision also fails in practical details. The town’s chief of police would be put in the probably unwanted position of setting occupancy limits, but how he or she would do that is not specified. Such calculations, if they are to be made, would be far better handled within the Town Planning Department, whose staff is equipped to do this kind of thing. Requiring certified surveys showing the grounds might be a good idea. What property owners and aggrieved neighbors could do to seek an appeal is not mentioned.
    The author of the proposal, apparently Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, has ignored the very zoning that was put in place long ago to protect the town’s peace and tranquillity. The rule should be: Party hearty where it is appropriate, but keep the disturbance indoors in places where it is not. The revision, as set forth now, should not become law.