The Surf Lodge, Montauk’s hot summer spot, will be mellowing down a bit this summer with a new ownership group, Montauk Properties L.L.C., it was announced Monday. The new team will still feature Jayma Cardoso as its day-to-day manager and public face, but Rob McKinley, Jamie Mulholland, and Steve Kamali, other former owners, are out of the picture, according to Montauk Properties.
Ms. Cardoso sees this as a chance to reassess and reinvigorate the Surf Lodge, focusing more on the hotel and dining experience, as opposed to simply being a nighttime destination.
“For me, it’s my baby, I helped build it,” Ms. Cardoso said. “I love Montauk. It is a special place.” It is Ms. Cardoso’s goal to establish strong lines of communication with the community, a vision shared by Michael Walrath, a digital advertising innovator, and the head of Montauk Properties. Mr. Walrath was the founder and C.E.O. of Right Media, before its purchase by Yahoo in 2007.
“I think the original vision [for the Surf Lodge] was to have it be a more mellow place than it became,” Mr. Walrath said Monday. “Our vision is going back to the a much simpler plan.”
Ms. Cardoso’s plan for the restaurant is to emphasize reservation seating, as well as an earlier closing time, in order to cut down on the influx of late-night partiers, according to a Surf Lodge representative.
As for the current litigious relationship with East Hampton Town, it is Mr. Walrath’s goal to bridge the gap between the sides. The Surf Lodge is due back in court on May 14 in front of Justice Catherine A. Cahill, who is entertaining a motion by the restaurant’s attorney, Thomas Horn, to dismiss many of the town’s nearly 700 zoning citations against it as duplicative and repetitive.
During a March 19 conference in chambers with Colin Astarita, the Surf Lodge’s former attorney, Justice Cahill and the town attorneys were skeptical about a potential sale, believing that it might simply be a way to avoid penalties incurred.
Mr. Walrath said on Monday that Montauk Properties had been a minor partner in the old ownership structure, but now was the sole owner of the restaurant.
Before news of the sale had broken, “I felt we were close to an agreement in concept,” Mr. Horn said on Monday. “I’m not as sure now. There appears to be some misinformation that got to the town’s side.”
Still, he said, he was optimistic that an agreement will be reached.
“I think when reasonable people sit down, this is not going to be that hard a problem to solve,” Mr. Walrath said.
The Surf Lodge has also been before the town’s zoning board of appeals, seeking to overturn a determination by the town’s senior building inspector, who ruled that an outdoor wait service station and dry bar constituted an expansion of the business and would require a variance from the zoning board. The establishment does not conform to current zoning regulations, but is allowed to operate as is because it existed before those regulations were established. However, expansion is prohibited.
Jeremy Samuelson, an environmental advocate who represented Group for the East End and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk in contesting the appeal on April 24, said Monday that “the environmental community would welcome the opportunity for a fresh start,” as long as that includes “concrete action” to address the antiquated septic system on the grounds which, he said, endangers Fort Pond.
The Surf Lodge also has a site plan application in front of the town planning board.