An annual party billed as Shark Attack Sounds drew between 2,000 and 3,000 people, depending on who is doing the estimating, to Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe on East Lake Drive in Montauk on Friday night, bringing out East Hampton Town police and ordinance enforcement officers who closed it down at 11:30 p.m.
An East Hampton Town mass-gathering permit had been issued for the event, based on an application that said 800 people were expected. Residents of the narrow two-lane artery estimated the number of partygoers was well over 3,000, although enforcement officers estimated the crowd at about 1,200 over the permitted number.
The party, hosted by Ben Watts, a photographer who owns two properties near Rick’s and whose sister is the actress Naomi Watts, is in its 10th year. Ben Pundole and Mazdock Rassi were its co-hosts. Rick Gibbs, the owner of the restaurant and marina on Lake Montauk, said he had no idea how many people came to the party because he was working inside. “It’s over. It’s over. It’s done,” he said. He added that he was not sure he would allow the party to be at the Crabby Cowboy again next year.
Mr. Gibbs said the only mishap he knew of at the party occurred when a man fell off a dock and cut his tongue. “That was the big incident,” he said. “I live on East Lake Drive. I try to be a good neighbor. I have one big party a year, and I feel responsible to clean it up, which I did at 8 the next morning.”
A code enforcement officer who arrived with the police wrote several citations charging the hosts had failed to adhere to the terms of the permit, had allowed overcrowding, music after the 11 p.m. town cutoff, and noise associated with an outdoor D.J., according to Patrick Gunn, the administrator of the town’s public safety division.
“The event as it transpired went way beyond what the town board approved and was an egregious abuse of the permitting process. The ordinance enforcement officer who responded was unable to leave for over an hour because of the overcrowded conditions,” he said.
East Hampton Town Police Chief Edward V. Ecker Jr. confirmed that it took a long time for the road to be cleared by police after the party was called off. He noted a similar problem with overcrowding on East Lake Drive many years ago when the Montauk Chamber of Commerce held its annual fireworks display from a barge off Gin Beach, at the far end of the road. ‘There’s no shoulder; no place to drive. That’s what was bad about that party,” the chief said.
Richard Schoen, chief of the Montauk Fire Department, reported that an ambulance call had been received during the party for someone with a lacerated chin. (It was unclear if this was the same incident Mr. Gibbs reported.) The injured party had to be taken in a police vehicle to Montauk Highway because an ambulance couldn’t get through.
Mr. Schoen said he had attended a town board work session in Montauk on Tuesday, intending to ask that in the future the Fire Department be made aware in advance of large gatherings for which permits are issued. Unfortunately, he said yesterday, the meeting droned on and he never had a chance to speak. He is planning to make the request by letter.
“Sooner or later God’s going to be looking the other way, and something’s going to happen,” he said.
East Lake Drive residents, who said they couldn’t get to their houses or out of their driveways and had had no warning about the event, took their complaints to a meeting of the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday night. They described bumper-to-bumper traffic and said New York City taxis had dropped off well-dressed women in high heels, who proceeded to walk across private property. One resident stood guard until 2 a.m. to make sure no one came onto private property. It was reported that some partiers dispersed by police had gone on to some of the hamlet’s other party venues, such as the Surf Lodge and Ruschmeyer’s.
“I don’t know how the hell they would allow a permit for that many people. It was wall-to-wall cars,” Dr. John Sayers, a member of the committee who is a resident of East Lake Drive, said at the citizens meeting. East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the committee’s town board liaison, said, “Rick’s got some explaining to do.”
In an article published before the party in a local magazine, Jeanann Williams, Mr. Watts’s girlfriend, said the event had started 10 years ago on the beach at Ditch Plain. It grew a bit too much, she said, and was moved to Rick’s a few years ago. “It’s a gigantic Fourth of July party that’s about fun music and getting down right on the lake. It’s not pretentious, and you don’t have to wear all white. It gets bigger and bigger each year. . . Last year we had 2,000 people, so I have no idea what to expect!”
Mr. Watts was quoted saying that the party takes those who attend on a musical journey from reggae to dubstep, a little bit of hip-hop, and funk. He promised a big interactive surprise this year for the 10th anniversary. In an e-mail yesterday, Ms. Williams said, “We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to the residents of Montauk. The Shark Attack Sounds, in its 10th year, has increased in popularity, as has Montauk. Our primary concern is and always has been the safety of our guests, which is why we were in compliance as soon as the authorities came.”
With Reporting by T.E. McMorrow