Town Board Offers First Solutions to Montauk’s Problems

A police car was parked outside the Sloppy Tuna on Tuesday night, while another had its lights on down the road in front of the Royal Atlantic. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

Exactly one week after hundreds of beleaguered Montauk residents flocked to the Montauk Firehouse to say the hamlet had reached a crisis point, the East Hampton Town Board passed a number of resolutions on Tuesday intended to address the root causes of what many say is an out-of-control party scene.

A three-hour town board work session was largely dedicated to many of the problems that residents say have taken over Montauk: overcrowding, dangerous parking and driving situations, illegal share houses, constant drunkenness, public urination and excessive noise.

Although Montauk has been described as “a drinking village with a fishing problem,” many say that the recent influx of young weekend revelers and the increase in the number of bars opened and operated by out-of-towners looking to get rich off Montauk’s recent popularity have brought too much truth to the t-shirt slogan. Residents complained last week not only of noisy and unpleasant situations caused by the new scene in Montauk, but also of potentially dangerous ones.

In response to many complaints from the fire department, ambulance squad and members of the community, the town this week set a public hearing for a parking prohibition along the west side Edgemere Road near the Surf Lodge.

“Vehicles that park along the shoulder take up the entire shoulder, forcing any pedestrians to walk in the road,” East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo explained. “It’s becoming increasingly dangerous.”

Suffolk County, which has jurisdiction over Edgemere Road, allowed the town o determine what restrictions it thought would be most appropriate on the segment of the road.

“We’re very thankful to Suffolk County allows us to put these in place,” said Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, who said that he was glad the town has been able to do something to address what had clearly become a huge problem.

“Restricting parking won’t eliminate the safety concerns around the establishment,” Chief Sarlo was quick to point out, adding that the Surf Lodge does not allow vehicles (except those driven by hotel guests) onto the premises, and so taxis end up stopping in the middle of a road that has a posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour. But, he added, it is “a step in the right direction.”

Zeroing in on another troublesome establishment, the board also voted to hold a hearing on Tuesday, August 18, to discuss the music permit belonging to Ciao by the Beach, which so far this year has received at least five noise complaints.

The town will hold a public hearing to discuss Ciao by the Beach on August 18.
The town will hold a public hearing to discuss Ciao by the Beach on August 18.

There is a provision in the town’s noise code, Supervisor Larry Cantwell explained, that states that if any establishment with a music license is cited for a noise complaint more than twice during one calendar year, the town may hold a public hearing, “so there could be recourse.”

The Sloppy Tuna, an oceanfront bar which often advertises its evening entertainment with banners dragged by planes encouraging visitors to get their “sloppy on,” has so far been issued nine complaints this year. When interviewed by CBS news this week, the owner of the bar, Drew Doscher, said that he works with many departments in the town in order to be in compliance and claimed his business injects $10 million every year into the local economy.

Supervisor Cantwell said that while some businesses have responded to the town’s calls for cooperation, others had not. “It’s very disappointing to me that that exists,” he said, adding that in the cases where proprietors are not willing to work with the town to comply with the code, “we’ll enforce the laws.”

On Thursday, August 20, the town will hold a public hearing on a law that would require the management of rowdy establishments to use mechanical counting devices to make sure they do not go over their state-mandated capacity.

Last week, a State Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the Harbor Raw Bar and Lounge (formerly the Cross-Eyed Clam, and many years before that, Behan’s Liquor Store), barring the use of the premises as a night club and ordering that the owners adhere to the maximum occupancy for the restaurant, which is 68.

In response to many complaints of excessive garbage and drunkenness, the town is looking into the possibility of banning the consumption of alcohol on Montauk’s beaches. Mr. Van Scoyoc said he would bring the idea to the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee when it meets on Monday, August 3, before the town considered it further.

The town board will also be looking to clarify the law that deals with commercial assembly, which will require commercial properties to apply for permits whenever an area of a business is used for something different from its regular use.

And back on the table is a rental registry law, which residents called for last week when they said that something had to be done to combat the problem of illegal share houses.

After assistant town attorney Mike Sendlenski went through the details of a proposed rental registry law, which would require renters to certify the property is in compliance with both state and town building codes, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Councilman Fred Overton, who hold opposing views on the law, agreed to work together to simplify the legislation.

The town board tried to pass a rental registry law last fall, but unenthusiastic public comment stopped it from coming to fruition.

The law will not change any of the current rental restrictions that exist—residents will still legally be able to rent their home for a period of less than 14 days twice during the span of six months.

“The truth is, this should be done well,” Supervisor Cantwell said, “and hopefully it can be done with community acceptance.” The other members of the town board will hear back from Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez and Councilman Overton after they have finishing fine-tuning the law.