Following a heated exchange in the courtroom on Monday, East Hampton Town Justice Catherine A. Cahill ordered the attorney for the Surf Lodge to return to court on Monday for pre-trial motions, this time with his clients in tow, saying “At this point, gentlemen, we are going to have to proceed to trial.”
The Surf Lodge, a popular Montauk club and restaurant, was charged between May 28 and Sept. 16 of last year with 686 violations of the town’s zoning code and 1 fire code violation, many of them repeated citations for the same handful of issues.
Justice Cahill and the owners’ attorney, Colin Patrick Astarita, had a conference in chambers earlier Monday morning in an “attempt to move forward, at which point we discussed several issues.” Among them, she said, was a food cart in the Surf Lodge parking lot, for which the owners had been separately seeking town planning board approval. The Surf Lodge had also been charged with operating without a building permit, certificate of occupancy, or site plan approval, and for illegal clearing of wetlands, property maintenance violations, and overcrowding. Justice Cahill began to list the issues discussed in chambers, but Mr. Astarita objected to her attempts to bring them out in open court.
At times, it was as if the two had been sitting in different rooms during the conference, with Mr. Astarita and Justice Cahill seemingly at odds about anything that had been agreed upon. The court reporter had been present for the conference, an unusual step meaning that the conference minutes were part of the record, however The Star was unable to obtain them by press time.
At one point Justice Cahill said, “Counsel made the court aware, as well as the town, that his clients will be divesting themselves of their shares,” a point which Mr. Astarita objected to, causing Justice Cahill to respond, “What counsel said was your clients wished to divest, your words.”
Justice Cahill was particularly taken aback when Mr. Astarita refused to tell the court the name of one of the Surf Lodge’s owners. Justice Cahill had told Mr. Astarita that she hoped having the owners present might speed a resolution, and began to name four individuals — “[Jayma] Cardoso, [Jamie] Mulholland, [Rob] McKinley,” then stopped, not recalling the fourth name, and asked Mr. Astarita what that name was.
Mr. Astarita declined to answer, telling the court that the true defendant was Edgemere Montauk L.L.C. It was at that point that Justice Cahill set the date for pre-trial motions.
According to Robert Connelly, an East Hampton Town attorney, the Surf Lodge was offered a $100,000 settlement over the outstanding violations in October, a settlement the owners have not accepted.
Mr. Astarita declined to comment later on the hearing or what the future holds until consulting with his clients.
The Surf Lodge, which opened in 2008 on Edgemere Road, has been popular from the start, but the crowds and the cars, which line Edgemere Road and sometimes nearby Industrial Road, have drawn frequent complaints from neighbors.
The violations began accumulating in early 2011. As the season went on, so did the violations, followed by a number of missed court appearances by the owners and their attorneys, even after criminal summonses had been issued requiring them to appear.
In early January, Mr. Astarita filed a motion requesting that Justice Cahill recuse herself from the case, claiming she was biased against them. She declined, commenting in her decision that Mr. Astarita had failed in his motion to offer proof “or even an allegation that the court has come to an opinion on the merits on some basis other than this court’s participation in this case.”