While the East Hampton Town building inspector weighs whether a private club at the Montauk Beach House constitutes a second business at the downtown resort, allegations made by two men who worked with the Beach House in its inaugural season last year cast the private club as a mere accessory to an even larger second business, that of a music venue.
The resort is allowed in downtown Montauk, despite the fact that the area is not zoned for motel usage, because it predates zoning, however the addition of a second business on the property could trigger a full site plan review before the town planning board, according to the town’s chief building inspector, Tom Preiato.
Mr. Preiato insisted on Tuesday that the private club being advertised on the motel’s Web site was a “proposal,” not an actual business, despite the fact that the motel is selling memberships for $1,100, with a discounted $750 membership for locals, who wouldn’t need to stay in the motel.
According to Terry Casey of New York, who said he ran the booking business for the 32-room motel last year, the whole question of the private club is misdirected.
According to Mr. Casey, the Beach House’s goal, in terms of music, is to bring in leading D.J.s to draw at least 1,000 people over the course of the day. An event that drew 500 was considered a “failure.”
Chris Jones, who owns the resort with Larry Seidlick, said earlier this month that it was ridiculous to allege that the Beach House was trying to draw such crowds. He said that crowds at the poolside bar, where the D.J.s and live music acts play, had never been larger than 300 in the 2012 season.
Mr. Casey said he signed an 18-month contract with Mr. Jones and Mr. Seidlick at the beginning of the 2012 summer season, only to be told by Mr. Jones earlier this month that his services were no longer wanted. “They wanted to cut out the middle man,” Mr. Casey said in mid-May.
Francois Belizaire, an event planner who was a partner in a now-defunct company called the Event Society, said earlier this month that his company planned the season’s calendar for the Beach House last year. “Design-wise it is beautiful,” he said of the resort.
It was his job to guide the ownership group, which he and Mr. Casey said were inexperienced in music event planning, in “how to structure the format, the whole music festival they wanted to bring in, the right clientele, people who were going to buy bottles by the pool.”
To much initial protest, Mr. Jones attempted in 2011 to launch an August music festival first in Amagansett, then at East Hampton Airport, to be called MTK, short for Music to Know. The event was eventually canceled due to disappointing advance ticket sales.
The goal for the Beach House, Mr. Belizaire said, was “to get the right people to come out of the Hamptons and come to Montauk. Let your hair down and kick back.” He said his company did just that, drawing over 1,500 people to the Beach House on several Saturdays.
“I came up with different concepts, different bands and D.J.s,” he said, and he brought on Mr. Casey, whom he had known for years. “He knows how the bands worked. He had a really good sense of the pulse of the music.”
Mr. Belizaire described the opening event. “We did the launch with Paul Oakenfold [the D.J.], easily 2,000 people, wall-to-wall bodies. There were lines out the door.”
One touch Mr. Belizaire was particularly proud of: “I tapped into some of my network of exotic car owners. We took all the parking spaces in front of the Beach House,” filling the spaces with mint-condition vintage cars. “I pinched myself, that day.”
“We also did Mark Ronson. He’s a shrewd talent and an amazing soul.” At noon, Mr. Belizaire said, it was raining and the bar was deserted. “It was hot, 90 degrees.” It stopped raining, and the sun and the crowd showed up. “Easily 1,600 people,” he said. “Our joke was, he brought the sunshine.”
Mr. Casey said that top D.J.s on the level of Mr. Ronson and Mr. Oakenfold, who have massive online followings, receive $25,000 per day for a venue like the Beach House.
According to both Mr. Casey and Mr. Belizaire, Mr. Jones and Mr. Siedlick were ecstatic when they saw the initial results, with an estimated $100,000 or more coming in on successful Saturday nights.
Both Mr. Siedlick and Mr. Jones disputed the idea that the bar could bring in that kind of money.
Mr. Belizaire explained how the music events played out in 2012. A sponsor, such as a vodka company, would book an evening through Mr. Casey, who would, coordinating with Mr. Belizaire, book a D.J. with a known following. The house, Mr. Jones and Mr. Siedlick, would make their money on a split of the bar and poolside sales revenues, with Mr. Belizaire getting a share of the sales that his personnel were responsible for.
Mr. Jones said earlier this month that Mr. Casey had not been in charge of booking acts for the resort last year and was instead a bitter ex-employee of Matt Thomas, who is handling events this season for the Beach House.
In a recent interview, Mr. Thomas said he was the one who got Mr. Casey involved to begin with, but that there was simply no place for him in this year’s operation. Mr. Thomas estimated that crowds of about 500 people attended the most successful events of the 2012 season at the Beach House.
Before turning the Ronjo into the Beach House, Mr. Jones turned the moribund Shepherds Neck Inn and Shepherds Beach Motel, also in Montauk, into the boutique resorts Solé and Solé Beach.
At the Beach House, the bar, along with a gift shop on the site, is the very reason that the whole question of a private club as a second usage came up. The East Hampton Town Planning Board is weighing a narrower site plan for those amenities and will continue that discussion on Wednesday evening.
The building inspector, meanwhile, seems to be saying that if a membership club is to continue at the site, a full site plan review would be necessary. Regardless of the outcomes of either discussion, fans of the resort are not likely to stay away.