Effort to Tamp Down Montauk Party Scene

East Hampton Town is taking on restaurants that turn into nightclubs in a newly invigorated push. Focused on Montauk, this is an important effort to tamp down a party scene that has grown out of control. It is the end of the season, but the effort is nonetheless worthwhile since it sends a message for next year.

In one example, the town board sought a restraining order to block Ruschmeyer’s, on Second House Road, from continuing to turn its 48-seat restaurant into an after-dinner party place in which close to 200 people were counted over the Aug. 5 weekend. It also seeks to block an outdoor bar that the restaurant set up despite the town’s having rejected a commercial gathering permit for it. The town also is taking on the Grey Lady, a 68-person restaurant on the Montauk docks, which also has been the site of repeated overcrowding.

The new letter-of-the-law approach should be expanded. Many restaurants and hotels have turned improperly into crowd-drawing hot spots. This has had the effect on weekends of making much of Montauk seem more like frat row than a family-friendly destination. And it comes at a high cost, both in terms of required police presence and accessibility to a place beloved by residents and long-term visitors. Montauk sometimes feels like Daytona Beach of the North. The fact that some business owners are making piles of money from the chaos does not make it acceptable.

Tackling indoor dining areas converted into party spaces is a good step. But the town also will have to find a more effective way of dealing with outdoor commercial activity, such as at the Hero Beach Club, which has appropriated a portion of public beach, and at Seamore’s at the Breakers Motel, which has, like the Montauk Beach House, recently begun promoting weekend pool parties with D.J. music and rivers of rosé.

 As far as the Surf Lodge is concerned, however, all appears lost. It recently scored several overly generous concessions from the town regarding its limit on outdoor occupancy. Another that comes to mind is the EMP Summer House on Pantigo Road in East Hampton, where the restaurant’s expansion into the property’s backyard has gone mostly unnoticed. 

Lest you think the worries are limited to Montauk, the precedent-setting aspect of allowing restaurant conversions to continue unabated is significant. There are rumors that outside investors are circling several existing restaurant and takeout places, particularly in Amagansett, with an eye toward substantial expansion. This should set off alarm bells; there are quite a number of places which, but for the restraint of current owners, could become new crowd-drawing, public parking-stealing nightmares. 

It is interesting to note that Southampton used to be the party town on the South Fork. A long-term effort by local authorities to close down — amortize in the parlance of officialdom — a number of the persistent hot spots paid off, however. The heat moved east. We are glad that East Hampton Town is trying to turn the clock back to a quieter time, but much more must be done to reset the balance.