If ever one needed evidence of America’s profoundly contradictory attitude toward alcohol, one need look no further than the Town of East Hampton. By night, police conduct necessary sweeps to get drunken drivers off the roads. By day, it is a different story: Public drinking — to considerable excess — seems to be encouraged, at least tacitly.
We were surprised and not a little disappointed to learn that the East Hampton Town Trustees, whose jurisdiction notably includes most of the town’s beaches, failed to even discuss the soggy, beer-fueled weekend gatherings at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett at their last meeting, even though the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee had mulled the problem (and a report thereof had appeared on our front page).
We have a view about the matter: Daytime alcohol use should be banned on town beaches while lifeguards are present. The trustees may have come to a different conclusion if they bothered to take up the issue, but nary a word passed the nine members’ lips. Part of their reluctance may be that in order to get a ban on the books, they would have to gain the town board’s cooperation. That is no excuse for pretending the growing problem at Indian Wells does not exist, however.
East Hampton Village and the state parks prohibited alcohol on their beaches long ago. In the town, the public might prefer that drinking continue in some places or at some times, for example, after families have gone home.
It is reasonable to expect that the Indian Wells gatherings will grow, and perhaps spread. With alcohol abuse there on weekend afternoons comes greater costs to residents’ enjoyment of the beach, as well as potential risks caused by drunken drivers or soused pedestrians. Town officials, both on Pantigo Road and in the trustees’ sea-view redoubt on Bluff Road, should take up the question sooner rather than later.