The Hula Hut, a bar proposed at the Montauk Marine Basin on West Lake Drive, wound its way to the East Hampton Town Planning Board for consideration, yet again, on Feb. 15.
Lin Calvo wants to open the Hula Hut in a 224-square-foot converted office trailer, with a 50-foot-by-18-foot sand patio next to it, and an asphalt parking area. She needs two special permits for a tavern or bar at the marina and for a multiple-business use on the property, as well as a natural resources permit because the bar would be within 150 feet of Lake Montauk.
At a hearing on the application last week, Ms. Calvo and Carl Darenberg, who owns the marina, said a bar was an amenity marina patrons had come to expect and promised that the Hula Hut would close by 9 p.m. during the week and by 11 p.m. on weekends, but some were not convinced it would remain the low-key hangout they painted it to be and questioned the precedent that would be set if the board approved the bar.
“Does this bar meet special permit criteria?” asked William Fleming of East Hampton, an attorney for Robert and Marie Rando, owners of the Montauk Sportsman’s Dock adjacent to the marine basin. “Is alcohol consumption at a waterfront marina a water-related use?” he asked. If the Hula Hut is approved, he is concerned that it will be a catalyst for bars at every marina in town.
“Marina dockside services have become standard in the industry and critically important to attracting all types of boating enthusiasts to Montauk,” Joe Gaviola wrote in a letter supporting the Hula Hut. “It has become essential to provide more than just a slip to compete both regionally and locally.” Mr. Gaviola, a former planning board member, lives in Montauk and owns two businesses in the harbor area. Laurie Wiltshire of Land Planning Services, who represents Ms. Calvo, read Mr. Gaviola’s letter to the board.
The Randos were unable to attend the hearing, but submitted a letter to the board on Feb. 1 registering their objections. One rental cottage on their property is 50 feet from a fence they say was constructed to reduce noise from the bar, but the buffer, they claim, “not only did nothing for the noise on the both occasions that the Hula Bar was open for business without a permit, but [. . .] is a terrible eyesore from our property,” Mr. Rando said.
The Randos suggested the bar be moved to a different area on the marine basin property. “We have Liars’ Saloon on the opposite end of our property, which is also an outside bar, and the noise is unbearable. Phone calls and complaining does nothing,” he said. “We would like to not be sandwiched between outside bars.”
In a follow-up phone interview, Mr. Darenberg said that although there is a fence on his property, the noise buffer has not yet been built.
Walter Kaprielian, who keeps a boat at the Montauk Sportsman’s Dock, and described himself as a friend of both Mr. Rando and Mr. Darenberg, said that Mr. Rando does not have a problem with a second use at the marina, but questioned whether future owners would abide by Mr. Darenberg’s and Ms. Calvo’s assurances about the bar’s hours and character.
Mr. Rando consented to a bar on the south side of his property years ago, “Which eventually ended up biting him in the butt because it turned into Liars’ bar, which makes noise until 4 a.m. all the time,” Mr. Kaprielian said.
“It seems to him [Mr. Rando] that it’s a problem waiting to happen,” Mr. Kaprielian said.
“The Liars’ Saloon, they howl there until 4:30 a.m. every Saturday, every Friday,” said Irwin Jonas, a client of Mr. Rando’s, who often sleeps on the boat he keeps at the Sportsman’s Dock on summer weekends. “The only way that I can get any sleep, quite frankly, is I close the hatches and turn the air-conditioning on,” Mr. Jonas said. “This is kind of like Dodge City. There are more saloons in this area per square foot than I’ve ever seen. Do we really need another one?” he asked.
Mr. Rando has owned his marina for 60 years, since before zoning, Mr. Fleming said, and has five houses on it. “This bar was open last year, so it’s great that permission is being sought for this coming summer,” he said. He claimed that there is no parking for the bar because boats are stored where it should be. “Bob actually provides affordable housing, and you’re going to make it less desirable housing,” he said.
Mr. Fleming has an issue with the Hula Hut receiving a special permit, and explained that in a waterfront district, the use must be ancillary to a principal water-related use. “If you’re going to promote lawyers defending boating while intoxicated, this is a water-related use. It’s a bar,” he said. “It must have a maritime character or theme. I don’t know how this could be granted a special permit based upon the criterion that sits in the ordinance,” he added.
“He makes it sound very odd that a bar would be on a marina, when 80 percent of marinas have bars in the country,” Ms. Calvo said. “It’s not far-fetched, it’s more common than not.” As for the Hula Hut opening last year, she said, “Carl had a party during one of the tournaments, in which someone came by and flicked a picture. There was no money transferred, it was just a party for friends.” She said she would not have gone through the process the legal way only to turn around and open the bar illegally. “That would risk everything I’ve worked for, and that’s not the truth,” she said.
And she stood by her claim that the bar would keep early hours. “We have no desire to be open late,” she said. Mr. Darenberg’s marina is filled in the evening with people preparing their boats for the next day. “They have valuable boats, some of them are a million dollars and above. They don’t want drunks there all hours of the night,” she said. “Carl is never going to allow that, and I don’t want that as well.”
“Nothing good happens after a certain hour anyway, in my book,” Ms. Calvo added. “I know I can say it, they’re not going to believe it, but it’s not going to be another Surf Lodge.”
“My intention,” Mr. Darenberg told the planning board, is to have a bar for my customers to come to in the evening. . . . It’s not going to be a Liars’, believe me. My intention is not to disturb Robert’s clientele, or my clientele for that matter.” In terms of parking, Mr. Darenberg explained that boats are stored in the parking lot during the winter but go back in the water at the beginning of the season, which will free up most of the spaces.
Since beginning the application process last April, Ms. Calvo has made four separate submissions for site plan review. The planning board recommended modifications such as moving the trailer and a deck away from Lake Montauk and closer to existing bathrooms. Ms. Calvo complied, but decided, for financial reasons, to eliminate the deck. A handicapped-accessible portable bathroom has been added to the plan, along with a fenced-in area for patrons, both on the western side of the property.
A hearing was scheduled for Sept. 14, but it was not properly noticed, and was postponed.
On Feb. 15, Ms. Calvo asked the board to keep the record open for a day, which prompted Mr. Fleming to ask for an additional week to respond to any new submissions to the file. “I’m not so sure any additional time is warranted to keep this application open,” said Reed Jones, the board’s chairman. The board voted four to one to close the hearing, with Bob Schaeffer opposed. A decision on the application is expected in the next few weeks.