“The sadness of an era passed,” one member of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee called it, as the committee considered on Monday night whether to support a proposed ban on alcoholic beverages at the hamlet’s two popular ocean beaches, Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, the committee’s liaison to the town board, said the ban, if enacted, would be implemented on a trial basis for the summer only, and only during hours when lifeguards are on duty. He described the town’s response to the hundreds-strong, beer-fueled gatherings that have become common at Indian Wells Beach as “perfectly legitimate” and important.
“Given what I’ve seen occurring at Indian Wells, I think this is something we need to try,” said Mr. Cantwell. “If it doesn’t work, we can pull back or do something different.”
Kieran Brew, the committee’s chairman and a resident of Indian Wells Highway, said the beach had been “out of control” for the past few summers. Nonetheless, he opposed the alcohol prohibition, saying that the town had responded admirably and adequately by controlling traffic in the parking lot and forcing nonresident beachgoers to walk a greater distance with their coolers and cases of beer. The town, he said, has been “very active in getting this thing under control.”
Some committee members disagreed. “We’re talking about a group of 300 kids throwing beer cans into the water, peeing in the dunes,” said Joan Tulp. “They were doing it last summer.”
“Absolutely,” agreed Susan Bratton. “It was a nightmare.” Ms. Bratton spoke of “footballs in my face” and “a bunch of drunk guys that were out of control,” and said she had to walk almost to Two Mile Hollow Beach, in East Hampton Village, to escape an atmosphere she called “very unpleasant.”
Dominick Stanzione, a former town councilman and Amagansett resident who is not on the committee, said his main concern was that once a ban is in place, “it’s probably done forever,” and that residents of Montauk, “who feel a real need about restricting drinking on the beach,” would surely demand similar action by the town.
“If people in Montauk come to the town board, we can discuss it,” Mr. Cantwell said. He recalled visiting Indian Wells Beach last summer to see for himself what he said several generations of local people were “very upset” about. “It’s not just the fact that there are more people there, or people from a different age group,” he said. “It’s the conduct of the people there, and the conduct is being influenced by the alcohol.”
Tina Piette, who was at the meeting as a guest, suggested including a “sunset” provision in the law — a specific date on which it would expire — and Mr. Brew recommended reserving an alcohol ban as an “ace in the hole” should other measures fail.
“I am persuaded by Larry that this is a reasonable intermediate step for the protection of public safety,” Mr. Stanzione said. “But it’s got to be with some sadness that we pursue this remedy. It cannot make any of us pleased that we are restricting our freedoms voluntarily as the community adjusts to changes. I have some sadness about it.”
“The sadness of an era passed,” said Ms. Tulp.
A lengthy discussion of a proposed town law restricting the location of chain stores followed. There will be a public hearing on the legislation at 6:30 tonight in Town Hall.
Earlier in the meeting, the committee voted to support the town’s planned purchases of the farmland known as 555, east of the hamlet, and four parcels on Napeague Harbor Road. And, Mr. Brew invited the entire community to participate in the Amagansett Fire Department’s 100th anniversary, which will be celebrated with a parade and other happenings on July 12.