Committee Mulls Over Booze and the Beach

David E. Rattray

    The Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee considered Monday how to address the regular summertime occurrence of huge, alcohol-fueled crowds at Indian Wells Beach. East Hampton Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, the committee’s liaison to the town board, suggested the possibility of prohibiting parking on streets near Indian Wells Highway, as well as limiting taxi and bus access to the beach’s parking lot.
    “Do we have to close Indian Wells Highway at Bluff Road and say you can’t get by there without a town sticker?” asked Kieran Brew, the committee’s chairman. “I don’t like the ‘police’ aspect of it, but it is kind of crazy down there.”
    “The share-house issue in Amagansett is getting a little out of control,” Mr. Brew added. “It’s difficult to police, it’s difficult to enforce. This could be the bigger issue that we have to look at. This whole thing is a quality-of-life infringement. It’s great that lots of people love our little town, but is it going to be our little town if it becomes Belmar?” he asked, referring to the resort town on New Jersey’s shore.
    Could alcohol be outlawed during the daytime? it was asked. That would be a change in the law, Ms. Overby said, and such a change would apply townwide.
    “We should pass a law like the village has,” said the committee’s Sheila Okin. “On lifeguard beaches, between 9 and 5 you cannot drink. Why should we all have to suffer this way? And why should we have to use police and marine patrol in this silly manner? I think it’s ridiculous.”
    An alcohol ban, it was predicted, would not sit well with many business owners, particularly the hoteliers at the ocean beaches in Montauk. “You’re putting rules on everybody for this small group of outsiders who are blatantly being disruptive,” said Britton Bistrian, a member of the committee. “Enforcement could get rid of the problem. You can’t have a mass gathering of over 50 people without a permit.”
    But social media allows near-spontaneous yet informal mass gatherings numbering in the hundreds. At Indian Wells Beach, virtually all participants in such gatherings arrive bearing large quantities of beer. These crowds have discouraged many year-round residents from going to the beach, Ms. Overby said, particularly if they have children.
    “It has to be a pre-effective clampdown as opposed to post facto,” said the committee’s John Broderick. “When the 400 people are on the beach already, it’s too late. It really does come down to legislation combined with enforcement.”
    There has to be better enforcement, Ms. Overby agreed, “whatever the rules are. We don’t have as many marine patrol as we did in the past. You might want to have a traffic control officer stationed.”
    The committee segued into a brief discussion of tonight’s town board hearing on taxi legislation, a component of the crowds-and-alcohol issue at Indian Wells Beach. Ms. Overby suggested that committee members make their voices heard there.
    Proposed legislation would require fingerprinting and background checks of all drivers, the existence of a local office for all taxis operating in the town, and mandate liability insurance for all operators of taxis. The committee agreed that it supports stronger taxi regulation.
    “I don’t know if this will improve the situation at Indian Wells,” said Ms. Overby, “but it might.”
    The hearing starts at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.