A Crowd ‘Tunited’ for Montauk Club

‘We’re a tourist community,’ councilwoman tells complainers, ‘put up with it’
Supporters of the Sloppy Tuna nightclub gathered there on Tuesday morning before piling into a fleet of black Escalades to attend a town board meeting. Russell Drumm

   About 80 people wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with the American flag and the slogan, “Tunited We Stand,” rallied in front of the Sloppy Tuna club in Montauk on Tuesday before arriving en masse at a town board meeting, ferried in 10 liveried black Escalades, to protest a court action by the town against the club, which has received numerous citations for overcrowding and noise violations.
    Later that day, a State Supreme Court judge in Central Islip denied the town’s request for a temporary restraining order enjoining the club from playing music without having a town music permit. According to John Jilnicki, the East Hampton town attorney, the town had also sought to have the court require the club to comply with the maximum occupancy limit of 99 people set by its certificate of occupancy.
    On a recent Saturday night, town fire marshals and police shut the club down for a time in order to empty it of a number of patrons.
    The nightclub supporters charged that the Tuna had been targeted by the town, a charge town officials denied. “I have been the best supporter in the Town of East Hampton of business, especially in the town of Montauk,” Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said.
    Before Drew Doscher, an owner of the club, purchased the former Nick’s and renovated it, “I sat with them, and said, we will do whatever we can to help you create that place,” Mr. Wilkinson said.
    Mr. Doscher acknowledged the meeting. “I thought we had an excellent relationship,” he told Mr. Wilkinson. “Something changed over the last year.”
    “We are a member of the community with 55 employees, 35 of whom are local residents. The owner has invested millions to upgrade the building for safety, installing handicap access, sidewalks. It’s been here as a club since 1976,” said Kieran J. Conlon, a lawyer for the Sloppy Tuna.
    “You have a responsibility . . . to apply the law equally and fairly,” Mr. Conlon said.
    Sloppy Tuna staffers argued with Mr. Wilkinson about whether he had taken pictures of the club and sent police officers there. The supervisor said he regularly drives around Montauk to check on conditions at all the clubs.
    “You can drive around and see any establishment in this town is overcrowded,” one man called out. “And we cite every one of them,” Mr. Wilkinson replied. “No you don’t,” members of the audience replied.
    Mr. Conlon said that before “millions of dollars” had been spent to renovate the club, it was “zoned” for 265 people, but the town had reduced the allowable occupancy to 99. To reduce the maximum occupancy “is in essence putting them out of business,” he said.
    The capacity was set at the issuance of a new certificate of occupancy, Mr. Jilnicki said Tuesday, and was agreed upon by both parties — town officials and the club’s owners.
    Also at question is whether or not the club, classified under zoning as both a restaurant and a nightclub, must have a music entertainment permit and whether a sprinkler system is required.
    Mr. Doscher said a sprinkler system was not initially required. But, he said, “I will comply; I will do whatever the law says.”
    However, he added,  “I feel it’s a personal vendetta against us. I’ll abide by the laws, but the laws keep changing.”
    “We had a meeting a month ago, and nothing’s been done,” Mr. Jilnicki said to him.
    Councilman Theresa Quigley criticized those who complained about the Sloppy Tuna. “What the neighbors of this institution in Montauk are doing is unfair, unneighborly, uncivil,” she said. In previous years, she said, there were no noise complaints. “I think it’s a purely political ploy,” she said, “. . . because it’s a Republican majority.”
    However, she told the club supporters, once town officials have been informed of a potential problem, they can’t ignore them. “And if the law as it’s written says there is a problem,” officials must respond, she said. “I didn’t write the code. I think it’s unreasonable,” she said.
    “We are a tourist community,” she said. “And yes, you have to put up with it for three months, unless you don’t want it to be a tourist community. That’s who we are. Put up with it.”
    “I’m glad to see you here,” she told the crowd. “Because it’s time that the business community comes out and says how difficult it is for them. But we’re told that there are violations at the Sloppy Tuna,” she added. “This isn’t a vendetta.”
    “The noise is really, really intrusive,” said a resident of Hopkins Avenue in Montauk, which he said is “seven and a half” blocks away. “I’ve gone there multiple times myself,” he said. “They’ve turned it down. By the time I get home 10 minutes later, they’ve turned it up again.”
    “If this institution existed since whenever. . . . Unfortunately, we can’t all live in silence,” Ms. Quigley said. “When you live in the hub of a community that’s vibrant — and Montauk is vibrant these days — there’s going to be noise.”
    John Behan, a former state assemblyman who came to the board meeting with the club supporters, said the first job he had after returning to Montauk from Vietnam was working the door at what was then the Pirate’s Den. The condos and motels now surrounding the downtown site were not yet built, he said. Neighbors now complaining about the noise are “like the guy who moves in next to a horse ranch and then complains he can’t stand the smell of horse shit,” he said to thunderous applause.
    Even with no music playing, a Sloppy Tuna employee said, the noise of patrons talking exceeds, at a recent measurement of 64 decibels, the 55-decibel level limit for nighttime noise prescribed in the town code.
    That’s the problem, said Chris Jones, the owner of another downtown establishment, the Montauk Beach House. “You have a town code that is so gray and so contradictory that it makes it almost impossible to interpret or enforce.” Even raindrops create sound that exceeds the nighttime noise decibel limit, he said. “It’s placing businesses in . . . an impossible position. We can’t win, whatever we do.”
    He suggested that those interested work together to address the issues, because, he said, “the way we’re operating as a community . . . it’s just going to end up in State Supreme Court.”
    Although board members said that they do not direct code enforcement efforts, Pat Lukzewska, a Montauk resident, said that the board influences enforcement through the budget, when allocating funds for staffing. And, she added, referring to Mr. Jones’s motel, “It’s embarrassing when a business opens without the proper permits, and they have town officials in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” (The Beach House has recently been cited for violations as well.)
    Mr. Wilkinson, the town official in question, laughed. “And what is wrong with a town official opening up a business in support of the business community?” he asked before telling Ms. Lukzewska, “You haven’t told me a thing. Give me some metrics.”
    “Why can’t there be a ‘three strikes, you’re out’ policy — for the season — if you break blatant laws,” asked Frans Preidel, who, with a cottage “five feet from the Sloppy Tuna’s deck and walls,” between the club and the ocean, is “probably the most directly affected.”
    He said that in the past he had successfully communicated with the club owners, but that this year, “they decided that their bottom line was more important than being good citizens to the town and their neighbors.”
    “As much as I respect . . . the ability to do business, the community is none the better because of it,” he said.

With Reporting by Russell Drumm


my memories of that property go back to 1985 when it was the mimosa. owned by tom and his sister joan.the bar was an oval in the center of the floor and only one story.then a second floor was added for food service.its only changed for the better its cleaner safer and a jewel of a business.the town of montauk has been run down for years.it looked like Atlantic city new jersey. it took gambling for that town to clean up with new blood and money and jobs.i hope it doesn't take gambling for east hampton to realize that to attract jobs and money you have to endure some bitching from the local cry babys that have made their money and want to look at tumbleweeds and listen to silence in their idea of montauk.it appears to me that maybe quigley is finally waking up to see through the democratic scum that just want to raise real estate values and not allow the young to be employed and have a nice place to see and be seen. signed blue color working class montauk local

Wilkee is wearing two faces. He encourages new businesses then he creeps in the bushes.what is your real program Bill?Did you have your swatchka arm band on while playing Spy? Vote for Jay.He lets people make a living.

Well,well..... The sloppy tuna is overcrowded and loud and the town is doing thier best to shut it down,or cost them alot of money on lawyers.im sure the biggest complainer is the neighbor that bought his bargain ocean front cottage back when nicks was around and rite away started busting chops about anything he could! Just so happens he is a litagator by trade. If you want quiet and you have any kind of education you should not by a property next to a nite spot !!

Dummiee ! The big question is.......why or how does cyrils circumvent all the rules they seem to be breaking ? You go by the place on any weekend and the place is so crowded that one has to wonder why doesnt the deck collapse ! The people spill onto the state highway and stand there drinking and hindering traffic all afternoon long,many times just walking across the highway,with drinks in hand and get in thier cars ! I cant tell you how many times on sunday people stop out front and have one of the passengers run into the bar and buy a round of.....to go drinks for thier ride back west ! Years ago i used to go to this place and stopped because how overcrowded it was,like i said,years ago, now is at least twice as bad! And dont forget thier are only two toilets in the building ! Many times the doors are locked because they have overflowed,or somebody is passed out locked in the toilet.

Is the town going to wait for somebody to get killed crossing the state highway to do something? Seems to be the path they are choosing.if the town is going to enforce the laws, they should do it fairly,and include all places, not just one with the sqeaky wheels,enforcment should be equally distributed. Poor montauk has changed,and not in a good way.

No doubt the supporters of Sloppy Tuna were stooges (paid or otherwise). The Sloppy Tuna among others have turned this quaint little town in to the horror show that now resembles the worst part of the Jersey Shore. Start to effect change by voting the supporters on the board out of office and then litigate this establishment in to oblivion.

the tuna showed support no matter how you want to characterize the attendees. more i can say for the unity at any given time of the town board. they couldn't get together on any issue other to try to close an business? and even failed at that attempt
sure piss away more tax payers money and violate more civil rights ,,, dumbass
As a Montauk taxpayer and home owner, it is incredible that our elected officials are ignoring the residents who own and pay taxes and make this a stable community, and instead support some newcomer who caters to the Fedoristas who come into our community for a couple of months lately, intent on turning it into Animal House. If Quigley thinks loud noise late at night is acceptable, I'm going to run my car up in front of her house on Timber Lane with music blaring and see how this loser and her family feel about it. She and Behan has some nerve to say that about our town and its people, while she lives in some shady alcove far away from the noise, drunks and screaming of these galoots. These two loser don't care about people, they only care about the almighty dollar.
The "problem" is not solely the businesses (night clubs). Another factor is the clientel. The partiers at some of the local nightspots have more attitude and self centerdness than earlier groups - even the so called "Yuppies" of the 1980's. Comparing the clientel of "The Sloppy Tuna" to that of "Nick's" or "Mimosa" is like comparing apples to oranges. The newer guests are younger, single and without kids. They also have the means to party, but have bypassed Hampton Bays, Westhampton and West Hamptone Dunes and migrated to the last "holdout": Montauk. Sadly, the newer breed have brought in higher prices, more noise, less manners and public courtesy. This ain't your grandfather's Montauk!
If the town tried to litigate on its sorry excuse for a code it would get its rear end handed to it, and any town official knows it.
Why cant they just get a music permit? It's not a difficult thing to do and costs nothing!
It seems that those that once sat on this party line have now turned and want to beat up on them. Is this place noisy, hell yes. Go to the Downs Golf Course when the music is in full swing, oh yes, you can hear it from there. So, what is it like several blocks away. And why would you have live entertainmet when you don't have a permit for such. seems like most of the clubs in Montauk take that path. Live entertainment without a permit loud and disturbing to the people living several blocks or more away. Screw all those as-h coming to Montauk to party get drunk and cause poblems on ours streets, and tax our police force. Close these morons down if they are in violation of the code. they would not get away with this in the Village of East Hampton so why in Montauk????
Report the underage drinking to the state liquor authority...this place and its hoards of hipsters will be history...
The real cry babies are the idiots that sunk "millions" of dollars to facelift a non-conforming business in the middle of a residential/hotel area, break the law, and then expect nothing to happen. Idiots !!! Did you look at the past litigation record of Nick's before you bought that dump?
I'm no chest-thumping nationalist but still was offended by the Sloppy Tuna using the American flag as the symbol of its campaign to sidestep the town code. Of the couple dozen supporters wearing the "Tunited We Stand" t-shirts, did not one of them have a second thought about whether that was appropriate?
its america ... wear what you want
if a disabled war vet that gave his legs to this country (mr behan) did not mind why would this commenter?