Busy Weekend Woes

A new wave of Montauk watering holes has opened

   Given all the ink that has been spilled over the Surf Lodge’s problems with some of its neighbors and the Town of East Hampton, we are hesitant to add more, yet to judge from the Memorial Day weekend crowds, more will need to be done to seek compliance with local laws there and at some other successful social spots.
    The Surf Lodge, whose new ownership has pledged a kinder and gentler summer 2012, is far from alone. Indeed, a new wave of Montauk watering holes has opened, seeking a piece of the once-quiet easternmost hamlet’s exploding popularity. At the same time, old standbys have been experiencing swelling numbers of patrons.
    Perhaps the most troublesome case is Cyril’s on Napeague, where upward of an estimated 500 people mobbed the property Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening, tying up traffic on Montauk Highway in both directions and putting patrons and motorists alike at risk. A local resident with a connection to the Driftwood resort across the road told us this week that he considered the situation a “deathtrap.”
    Perhaps because Montauk Highway is a state road, local officials have been hesitant to act on this disaster-in-the-making. They should not be; for example, when East Hampton Village was displeased with opening-night tumult at a restaurant on a stretch of the state highway within its borders, its police chief almost instantly invoked emergency public-safety powers and temporarily banned parking there overnight. The state soon followed his lead, installing no-standing signs. By contrast, Town of East Hampton officials seem to make noncommittal clucking noises as complaints come in, then avert their eyes.
    Like many operations that might be considered trouble spots, the Surf Lodge, Cyril’s, and Ruschmeyer’s, which also has become a hot spot in Montauk, are on residentially zoned land. This means certain rules and expectations should apply, including that surrounding residents should not have to bear the traffic, noise, litter, and attendant dramas of someone else’s commercial success. It may seem hard to reconcile Cyril’s location on a busy highway with residential zoning, but the situation demands that reasonable — and safe — restrictions be imposed. Unfortunately, a proposal drafted by Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley missed the mark in figuring out how to do so.
    Under Ms. Quigley’s proposal, which has been tentatively set aside for the time being, out-of-place operations would gain further legitimacy with the gift of a set-in-stone capacity number of persons allowed to occupy their properties. As drafted, a calculation would give property owners the right to have up to almost 3,000 people outdoors at a bar or restaurant anywhere in town with a half-acre of usable grounds. (Cyril’s two parcels total just over an acre.) The correct course would be for the town to issue revocable commercial-mass-gathering permits for all outdoor activities by businesses in residential zones that regularly attract more than a couple dozen patrons. Those permits are only demanded now for commercial use of public spaces.
    East Hampton Town has areas where day and night happy hours are welcome, with ample parking, street lights, and few occupied nearby houses — the central business districts. According to town law, pre-existing, nonconforming businesses in residential zones are supposed to go away over time, not grow. It is high time those in authority took notice of this. No one should have to hate their hometown on summer weekends.
 


Comments

Some of the comments in this editorial illustrate a basic ignorance of Montauk 20 and 30 and even 40 years ago. Montauk was never the "once quiet easternmost hamlet". Montauk was always the big party hamlet. Do you forget the Lake Side when it was swinging with hundreds packed in every summer weekend night, or the Memory Motel with over flow crowds, loud music, and underage drinking; and what about Ms. Oliver and her multiple loud, overcrowded night spots? And the Beach House (or whatever it was named then - the name changed quite a bit) with crowds spilling outside and out to the beach in down town. Four AM drunks eating breakfast at Salivar's. Down town Montauk has never been a quiet summer hamlet. The crowds may have shifted within Montauk, but the crowds were always there. Cyril's has been jammed since Tony Bullock was Supervisor. And why is the State so reticent to put up parking control signs on the State road? Cyril is quite colorful and magnanimous and I dare say State officials are less than in a hurry to curb the successful business of a proud Viet Nam veteran who flies the Marine flag with pride everyday and has supporters that range from Edward Albee to decorated veteran John Behan. I am more than sure if the State posted the highway the town would enforce it. Take a look at the stretch between the Amagansett train station and the start of the Napeague strip. The speed limit was lowered to 40 and enforced by the town. Look at the new island being built in front of the Amagansett Post office to calm traffic with the new senior center being built. Things are being done to improve safety when the State acts a willing partner. And Ms. Quigley at least tried to do something to create an enforcement tool. It needs work, but it is a start that other Town Board members were quick to criticize but unwilling to offer any alternative of their own. It is easy to sit and criticize others suggestions without proposing any alternatives yourself. They're too busy trying to stop a perfectly good project in Montauk that will upgrade and improve downtown Montauk because their political bosses were attempting to create a political issue that blew up in their face. When they were trying to stifle town government and intimidate town workers Quigley was trying to move forward with ideas to address a stated problem.