A proposed addendum to the East Hampton Town Code that would require business owners to obtain annual permits to host live entertainment on their premises has raised eyebrows and ruffled feathers among Montauk bar and restaurant owners. At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting where town councilwoman Theresa Quigley presented the legislation-—it will come up for public hearing on May 3—businesses within the hamlet made it clear that they would prefer not to be tread upon by rules and regulations.
The consensus amongst those who participated in the meeting seemed to be an opinion that the legislation, which Quigley said was crafted by town attorneys to address what was perceived as “a hole in our law,” was devised solely in response to the problem behavior of one particular business.
The gist is that since the Surf Lodge has hosted a slew of wildly popular concerts that code enforcement officers and lawmakers have historically been at a loss to control via clear cut regulations, every gin joint that wants to legally host even a single night of G-rated karaoke within a 365-day span will have to jump through a rather large and cumbersome flaming hoop, courtesy of the town board. Considering Montauk’s proud status as an outlaw microcosm of East Hampton town, where rules are made to be broken, or better yet, not made at all, it seems only natural that bar owners are in a bit of a huff.
According to Quigley, the new code would not address noise or parking, but the number of people who are allowed to “congregate on a regular basis” in cases where indoor or outdoor entertainment may arise. No “magic number” of congregants has been established, and as the code is written, that would be up to the discretion of the Chief of Police.
Quigley acknowledged that “the Montauk Community did not like this at all,” fearing that they were being “regulated to death.”
Arden Gardell, a partner at 668 The GigShack on Main Street, called the proposed changes both ambiguous and redundant, and opined that the code change was written “to address the problems of a certain establishment” that has worked with the town to settle problems before. Establishing a cumbersome law that would affect everyone would be in his words, “inappropriate.”
While there would be no cost for an entertainment permit, each business would be subject to review by the town clerk. Further regulation, including a bit of language that suggested that live music shall not prevail any later than 11:30 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday night, is not likely to go over well. Everyone in Montauk knows that a good night of karaoke at Liar’s Saloon doesn’t really heat up until midnight, that The Three B’s aren’t hurting anyone by pulling off a late set at the Montauket, and that the burlesque shows are… well, never mind.
“At the end of the day, for someone in their mid-20s trying to run a small business, it’s just another thing to do,” said Gardell, who will likely continue to oppose the legislation by appearing at the public hearing on May 3.
In other news, a second proposal that would allow for sidewalk dining, was warmly received by the hamlet’s seasonal business owners. The new law, which addresses a use of public space, is based on a similar one already in effect in Southampton. “It was brought to my attention about two years ago by a lot of constituents, and the planning department has been looking at it for quite some time,” said Quigley.
No public hearing date has yet been set for the outdoor dining provision.