A letter that will be sent to the two East Hampton Town justices asking them to do more to crack down on problems at the Surf Lodge restaurant was unanimously approved by the Montauk citizens advisory committee at a meeting on Monday.
Written by Jay Fruin, a committee member, the letter asks Justices Lisa R. Rana and Catherine A. Cahill to take on the Surf Lodge, which, according to Pat Gunn, an assistant town attorney and the administrator of the town’s Public Safety Division, has been cited some 640 times since June for alleged code violations. The citations are for an outdoor bar and a food wagon that is parked outside the business.
Lisa Grenci, the committee chairwoman, said she met with Rob McKinley, who runs the Surf Lodge, and told him he should remove the offending items. “If it’s an awning, get rid of it. If it’s a food truck, get rid of it. We’ve had enough, and we’re fed up with it,” she said she told him.
In an e-mail message on Tuesday, Mr. McKinley disputed what Ms. Grenci said. He accused her of playing both sides of the fence. “Lisa also has no problem taking our money for rentals,” he said.
Ms. Grenci, a real estate agent, explained that she has a client who has rented employee housing to Surf Lodge. “I can’t discriminate.”
Mr. McKinley said the restaurant had not removed the awning or food truck as they did not believe they were in violation. “That’s what our lawyer and East Hampton court will decide,” he wrote.
“And frankly I feel no matter what we do the ‘committees’ will find bogus claims against us because we aren’t what they want in town. But guess what? We are doing a lot more that is right than wrong,” he wrote.
In its letter to the justices, the committee wrote, “This is to alert you about a critical issue before you which has negatively compromised the quality of life in the hamlet of Montauk. For the third summer, the business known as Surf Lodge has flagrantly and repeatedly abused the privilege to conduct business.” The letter will also be sent to the town attorney’s office.
It goes on to say that “at the peak of the season their ongoing flagrant disregard for the law has consumed valuable code and law enforcement resources from other important duties. Their pattern of behavior negatively impacts the community while hundreds of other businesses are able to successfully operate without violating the same town codes and regulations.”
The committee asked that the justices not consolidate all violations into a single or reduced fine, nor rearrange their court calendar for the convenience of the defense attorney. It also requested them to apply the maximum penalty for each individual violation.
Committee members charged that the Surf Lodge, which is owned by King and Grove, a corporate group that includes Jayma Cardoso and Rob McKinley, is gaming the system by delaying the charges until after its liquor license is renewed, reportedly in January.
Members suggested letting the State Liquor Authority know about the number of violations against the club, which opened in May 2009 and has drawn huge crowds and popular musical acts to the lakefront establishment ever since, on the theory that the license might not be renewed.
At the meeting, the town’s code enforcement office was hit with accusations that code enforcement in Montauk is questionable. Members said they have been complaining about the 7-Eleven sign, which is on a state right of way in front of the establishment, for over a year with no results. “We don’t have code enforcement,” said Linda Barnds, the committee’s secretary.
“We need the guys from East Hampton Village. They get things done,” said Ray Cortell, a committee member.
Mr. Gunn of the Public Safety Division took issue with those comments on Tuesday. In an e-mail message he rejected that assertion and wondered where such “unfounded information” came from. “It’s an insult to the hard-working men and women in the ordinance enforcement department for anyone to make a reckless comment like that,” he wrote.
“Surf Lodge is an ongoing litigation and cannot be discussed by the town while charges are pending,” he said.
Since January, the ordinance department has opened 191 cases in Montauk, a number that represents 20 percent of cases townwide, he said.
Mr. Gunn said the 7-Eleven sign was out of his jurisdiction because it is in a state right of way, but noted that the convenience store had been charged for failure to obtain permission for the sign from the East Hampton Town Architectural Review Board. He referred further questions to the town attorney’s office.
Rob Connelly, an assistant town attorney, said yesterday that there were three charges against the Montauk 7-Eleven that were recently adjudicated in court, including the sidewalk sign. The store was found guilty, he said, and told to remove the sign.