East Hampton Town officials have been working during the past few months on revising the way large assemblies are regulated. It is an important undertaking, and the time is now to get a handle on these before the summer’s high season.
At one level, the effort is intended to bring the diffuse references in the town code about parties, benefits, and similar events into a single chapter. This would make it easier for the public to understand the law and help provide clarity for officials dealing with approving permits or clamping down on violations. Looked at a different way, the suggested changes to the code could significantly rein in for-profit gatherings that are regularly held outdoors at some restaurants and bars.
John Jilnicki, a town attorney, presented his draft at a town board meeting earlier this month, and it appears the board is moving in the right direction. The most straightforward suggestion in the draft is that gatherings of between 50 and 100 people on private property be eligible for a fast-track permit from the town clerk. Party permits for 101 to 249 participants could be considered by an existing committee including town board members. When a resolution of the full town board were required, applications could be due as far out as 60 days before party time. An existing set of fees to cover traffic control and other town costs would be reviewed. In general, permit applications could require much more detail than required now and the identification of responsible individuals.
A key provision is about commercial properties. Depending on how a proposed new law develops it could mean that outdoor activities at bars and restaurants would be reviewed by the town board and subject to the strictest permit standards. Demonstrating just how tough they may be willing to be, there could be no sale of goods or services at any event unless it was for a bona fide charity.
Mr. Jilnicki’s draft suggests that large gatherings such as music performances or movies be allowed on commercial sites by permit only, with assurances that parking areas not be used by attendees and that no fee be charged. The law would bring some relief to neighbors of those bars and restaurants, mostly in Montauk, that have improperly taken over lawns or parking lots as good-weather annexes. Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell has said this was something the town lawyers should make a priority. It is high time that the town tackle the troublesome outdoor expansion of pre-existing businesses, and it appears that the revisions of the mass gathering law will present an opportunity to do so.