Ban Booze at Indian Wells?

‘The East Hampton Town Board will seek the public’s opinion on banning drinking during the daytime hours when lifeguards are on duty at Atlantic Avenue and Indian Wells Beaches in Amagansett, where large crowds of unruly and drunken beachgoers have gathered in recent summers.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said at a town board meeting on Tuesday that the board must act in response to ongoing complaints about Indian Wells, in particular, by those for whom it has been a traditional summer gathering place. “It’s very upsetting,” she said, “to have families say ‘I’m just not going there anymore.’ ”

“It’s different,” she said, “than just taking a beer down, and having a cold beer on a hot day. The behavior is drinking to oblivion.”

The excessive drinking by beachgoers, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said, creates a problem for lifeguards, and could put them at risk.

Ms. Overby spearheaded the institution last year of a host of changes to beach management at Indian Wells, including limiting access to the parking lot by large vehicles and those lacking the resident parking permits needed to park there. Additional changes will be instituted this year. The changes were said to have been effective at making the parking lot area safer, and decreasing a sense of chaos at the beach. But some have suggested the problems will not really abate unless drinking is banned. “It’s time now to hear from the public” about the idea, Ms. Overby said Tuesday.

Councilman Fred Overton asked whether the ban at the two Amagansett beaches might just prompt the crowd to find a new beach party destinations.

That, Ms. Overby conceded, “raises the question about banning alcohol on all beaches.”

“This is a start,” she said. “At least those who have been using Indian Wells, and to a lesser extent, Atlantic Avenue, will know that we have taken notice.”

“This is in response to a specific problem,” said Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc. “We have had a lot of complaints about these areas,” Mr. Overton agreed.

“You always wonder, if you take an action, what the reaction will be,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell. “It’s hard to regulate conduct, but clearly we’re trying to address a specific issue here. It certainly bothers the heck out of me that a local family beach like Indian Wells is so severely impacted in a negative way.” 

The hearing has not yet been scheduled.