East Hamptoners are beginning to express wishes that officials put a stop to huge, daytime booze-fueled gatherings at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett. Doing so would be easy, as we explain at the conclusion of this editorial. The question is whether the town should bring the hammer down or let the party go on.
Like any number of curious observers who had heard tell of the informal parties at Indian Wells, we took a walk to the right of the lifeguard stands Saturday to see the scene firsthand. It was, if anything, unfamiliar, unless you are among those who have witnessed the shenanigans during spring break along the Florida coast. Without exaggerating, there were hundreds of what appeared to be 20 and 30-somethings spread across the sand. Many had open cans of beer in their hands, mostly Bud Light, for some unknown reason.
A volleyball game was under way. Four young men lined up their dozens of empty beer cans along the side of the competitive bean-bag-toss match they had going. Others played a game in which a guy on the beach tried to kick a soccer ball into the chests of a bunch of buddies standing waist deep in the surf. A dozen or two more, men and women alike, bobbed nearby, keeping their beers above water. Up on dry land, a number of smaller groups within the massive whole listened to nondescript pop tunes that drifted from battery-operated radios and the like. And, yes, among the hundreds of people was a young man in a bear costume. Every beach blast needs one, right?
As odd as the party (if you can accurately call it that) was, it was all rather benign. No one appeared ready to fight, nor, despite all the alcohol consumption, did anyone look particularly drunk. Though empty cans of Bud were scattered around, we are told the revelers usually clean up after themselves.
What was going on in the parking lot was perhaps more of a problem. An East Hampton Town police officer was rather forcefully explaining to a recalcitrant taxi-van driver that he had to keep moving and not clog the turn-around. Other vehicles, including more taxis from who knows where, circled the lot, their drivers looking for places to park. Over the din of a far-too-loud generator on one of the concessionaire’s trucks, a marine patrol officer could be heard talking over a cellphone about the crowd and what to do. An Amagansett resident told us that at times lines of beer-filled people clog the tiny restroom, leaving it inaccessible to those with young children who desperately need to go.
Some members of the East Hampton Town Board have said they are reluctant to put a damper on the fun. You could hear that as a clear, if unstated, expression of desire to keep the cash flowing into town by whatever means, whether in sales of six-packs or illegal share-house rentals — despite the cost to the community in extra taxes for cleanups and patrols or in terms of residents’ enjoyment of the beaches.
We were struck recently at something a young mother of our acquaintance said about it all. Indian Wells was her go-to beach, but she is no longer comfortable taking her children there. It just wasn’t relaxing anymore, she said. This is the bottom line for us: An East Hampton taxpayer and lifelong resident no longer cares to go to “her” beach. To stand by and allow this to happen is a profound failure of the town’s leadership.
The solution is easy. The East Hampton Town Board and Trustees should move quickly to ban the consumption of alcohol at beaches where there are lifeguards from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If people want to have an evening glass of wine or an all-night beer bash, fine. The town could even let those pretentious catered events with full bars continue. But daytime drinking and enormous frat-style parties should be no more. The town code already gives officials the latitude to post no-alcohol signs at the beaches. The time has come to do so — at least for daytime hours.