Montauk Mayhem Rolls Merrily Along

Truck visits Surf Lodge with free condoms

    Despite an impassioned plea, Councilwoman Julia Prince was unable to convince fellow East Hampton Town Board members on Tuesday to take an aggressive stand against Montauk bars and restaurants that are serial violators of town laws and move to shut them down.
    Places such as the Surf Lodge and Ruschmeyer’s, which was opened this year by the Surf Lodge owners, have been cited repeatedly for town code violations, Ms. Prince noted, but despite court appearances and fines nothing has changed. The owners simply see the fines as the cost of doing business, she said.
    Montauk residents who live within shouting distance of the watering holes have complained all summer about overcrowding, noise, clogged streets, and rowdy patrons.
    The hamlet, which has been under the unremitting gaze of the metropolitan media since before Memorial Day, has become a must destination for young people looking to see and be seen. On a recent weekend the Surf Lodge attracted a visit from the Trojan “Good Vibrations” truck, from which free condoms and vibrating rings are distributed.
    “I’ve just kind of had it with these establishments,” Ms. Prince, herself a Montauk resident, said on Tuesday. “It’s just not good enough. I think that the people who live here have suffered enough. Are we just going to allow it to happen, or are we going to give some kind of direction to the town attorney’s office? What is the next step? Why can’t we take another action? It’s not fair to the businesses who act legally.”
    “Is it a [State] Supreme Court action, or is it revoking music permits?” she said. The town code was amended several years ago to allow for the issuance of town permits for live music, which, said Ms. Prince, “changed every restaurant into a nightclub.”
    Police and ordinance enforcement officers have been doing their part, writing summonses when warranted, she said, to no avail. “It’s a drain on our resources,” the Councilwoman told the board.
    “If it’s in the court process, we can’t step in,” said Supervisor Bill Wilkinson. “I’m not stepping into the court process.”
    “They pay their fines. There needs to be another action,” Ms. Prince responded.
    “But that’s within the court system,” Mr. Wilkinson said.
    The town board could choose to approach State Supreme Court in Riverhead for an injunction to shut a place down, said John Jilnicki, the town attorney, provided it could show a record of summonses and code violations.
    “As a board member, that’s what I’m at this point saying,” Ms. Prince said.  “If you have the same establishment doing the same violations over and over and over again, isn’t there a next step when we say you cannot have all of this illegal activity — you can’t just keep operating your business illegally, and we’ll just keep writing fines?”
    “This community is going to shutter up after Labor Day,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “This is a tourism community. So where is the balance? We have never sat down to figure out the balance.”
    “But you know what?” Ms. Prince responded. “People coming out to get really drunk and leave is different from families coming out and people going fishing.”
    “The truth is, we all struggle with quality of life,” said Councilwoman Theresa Quigley. “There are certain groups that like one thing, certain groups that like other things.”
    “You’re choosing families,” she told Ms. Prince. “I enjoy seeing young single people. They come out to enjoy what the community has to offer.”
 “I get the frustration of the community,” Ms. Quigley added. “Having said that, it’s part of who we are.”     
    Both Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley maintained that the problems around Ruschmeyer’s, where the road has been so congested at times that emergency vehicles would have been unable to get through, has abated.
    Ms. Quigley said it was “arrogant” of the Surf Lodge owners to park a food-vending truck on-site (for which they have been cited), but “that doesn’t mean we focus in on one organization and say we’re out to get them.”
    “I wasn’t suggesting playing favorites,” Ms. Prince said.
    She said the hamlet was no longer the community it once was. “The only way it’s going to stop is if someone says, hey, listen, party’s over. You can’t operate all these illegal parts of your business, and pay fines, for three years.”
    Driving past some of the party spots in the early morning, she said, “it’s disgusting. The roads are disgusting. Seeing naked people laying at the train station at 6 in the morning is not the community I want to live in.”
    “What we did say, about six meetings ago, is we’re going to control that open space, and try to quantify that for a number of people,” said Mr. Wilkinson, referring to discussions about setting a maximum number of occupants at an establishment, not only for indoor areas but for the property over all. That provision is being worked on, Ms. Quigley said.


This sounds exactly like what Manhattan goes through on a daily basis with bars and clubs. The only way to tackle the situation is for the residents to get out there and document what is going on from a community perspective. Overcrowding is a serious violation. Surf Lodge does not have the proper amount of parking for its patrons, that alone is enough to close them down, or force them to an occupancy limit. There is precedence, 7 years ago a small restaurant in the village of Montauk owned by a local chef was forced to close because his restaurant did not have enough parking for his patrons—how do you then justify Surf Lodge? In addition the DEC should get involved, no doubt the pond is being polluted, with only 2 small bathrooms for hundreds of people. Quigley and Wilkinson need to see someone get hit by a car and die from a drunk driver before they will do anything. They do not sound like people who take a preventative measure to anything. Unfortunately the people of Montauk will have to sue before anything will get done. Its politics as usual— they are all trying to be re-elected and need support (monetary) to do so. Your best bet is to vote them out of office.
This article correctly points out that the Town Attorney can sue for an injunction in state court if it can be shown that an establishment has a serious pattern of legal violations. What people need to realize is that this will never happen without some serious community organizing to pressure the Town Attorney--establishments like the Surf Lodge are simply too lucrative for the Town of Easthampton to turn their back on. Why would they want to sue and try to shut down a place that bring dollars and cents to the town? If people want these kinds of places shut down, they need to speak out, write to their town councilpeople, organize community events and ultimately pressure their representatives to carry out their wishes. That is the only way we can stop our town from being stolen out from under us because at this point, it's clear the Town will do nothing on its own initiative.
Anonymous: "Your" town's name is correctly written as East Hampton. The board needs to get a spine and do what's right for the residents. Every year its the same pattern. By August the year round residents are so fed up and frazzled that it takes the whole month of September for everyone to calm down. Julia is right - fines are just the cost of doing business. I remember when CL's place was shut down behind the Memory, that was just wrong. He had a really nice little restaurant with about 60 seats which he renovated and they did an excellent job. They shut him down the first year for parking issues. Montauk Village actually has more than adequate parking, particularly in the evening. I for one refused to prostrate to the 20 & 30-something wanna-be's.
Thanks to Julia Prince for her words. Montauk residents from what I can tell are a lot like people elsewhere -- complain like crazy to your neighbors but do nothing publicly to remedy a problem. PUBLIC officials are just that, and should do more than shuffle their feet until Labor Day and wait for post-season amnesia to set in. Shame on them all. The only "kid hangout" that the town Republicans have been adept at closing down is the Fort Pond House, a local nature classroom used by the Boy Scouts and others. This is worth remembering in the next election.
I understand that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, but on this issue, Julia Prince most certainly does NOT speak for the majority of Montauk's citizens.
Anonymous is correct in pointing out that an injunction -- which requires action by the State Court in Riverhead -- is the only way to stop these clowns. However, there is no point in pressuring the Town Attorney -- a decision to seek an injunction is a decision that only the Town Board can make. And Wilkinson has made it abundantly clear that he is prepared to trash his home town if it furthers business interests, legal or not. And the witch Quigley is still servicing the East Hampton Business Alliance. We will surely miss Julia Prince and it becomes more urgent to get rid of Town Board members that simply refuse to enforce our laws.
The Surf Lodge must go. We spent the last four weeks renting at Rough Riders and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday we could hear the music. I could only imagine the noise level if you live near that dump. The people walking to and from the Lodge at night is an accident waiting to happen. We also had the pleasure seeing all the empty beer cans and bottles lining the road the following morning. I would also think there is a lot of garbage getting throw into Fort Pond has the drunks finish their beers before they enter the Surf Lodge. Also what is this place doing for the economy of Montauk? Most of the people working there are getting paid in tips (probably not paying any federal or state tax) and and rest are low level jobs making min wage. AJS Westfield, NJ
Simple. Close the bars at midnight. I know it's a State law but we can get a local ordnance to close early. Much of the drunkenness is really from the Point, Memory and now Sloppy Tuna. Close them at midnight and see our town clean up nicely.
To Montauk Resident---your facts are a little off regarding the closure of that restaurant. It was closed because it was determined that the restaurant had been voluntarily abandoned by the owner of the buliding about fifteen years prior to the operation of the restaurant and had operated illegally for all those years. That restaurant could have remained open had the owners of the building added parking to comply with current zoning. The owners decided against that, the restaurant has remained closed, and the owners of the restaurant paid the price for their landlord's decision to not increase parking. This differs from the Surf Lodge situation. The surf Lodge has a County approved, pre-existing, septic and as for two bathrooms for hundreds of people.....look around town you could probably find others.