Starving: Going Hungry & Missing Meals Reaches the Hamptons

Hungry sharks cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

People are starving all over the world. But so far there has not been enough attention paid to the tourists and summer people going hungry here in the Hamptons. It’s about time this was brought to the attention of the powers that be.

This is not a problem in the off-season. At that time of year, people can eat wherever they want. Most restaurants are open. There’s plenty to choose from and nobody goes hungry.

In the summertime, however, it’s a different story. The crowds are here and the restaurants are packed. Frankly, if you don’t make a reservation somewhere at least a few days or even a week in advance, you could go hungry. This is not a joke.

At the end of this tale, I will relate what one couple went through to land a table for two at the EMP Summer House in East Hampton six weeks in advance. And they were lucky. Fact is, we need more restaurants in the summertime. With the crowds here, it’s as simple as that. But it’s not happening. And people worry that they may starve if they don’t eat.

Just in the last two weeks, attempts to open two different restaurants in Montauk raised the ire of the powers that be. One opened anyway, while a lawsuit makes its way through the courts. Another has been denied permission because of a newly passed law. The owner has filed a lawsuit to throw the new law out. Also under threat are places to eat on the beach. In both Southampton and East Hampton, there are new developments that could end that practice. One is at Truck Beach in Amagansett. The other is the aptly named Picnic Beach in Southampton. Locals traditionally drive their trucks out on these two stretches of beach and have BBQs there. They’ve been doing this for countless years. But this option may soon cease to exist. It would be terrible if it did. But who knows.

The lawsuit in Montauk was filed by the owner of the Hero Beach Club (formerly the Oceanside Beach Resort) to strike down a new law that would prevent them from having a new bar area in their backyard, a practice that is currently legal in resort zones in East Hampton Town.

Two months ago, the Town passed a new law that allowed seating in retail establishments—like delis serving takeout food—provided that the seating is for no more than 16 people. No extra restaurant permit would be needed to do this. But there is a clause in the law that says motels cannot be allowed the benefits of the law. If the law is allowed to stand, it means that Hero Beach Club will not be able to provide beverages and food to those staying at the motel and sunbathing around the pool. Hero Beach Club claims this law was amended at the last minute specifically to deny them. They’ve been singled out, they say.

Major General Andrew Hero, by the way, was the Chief of Coastal Artillery who died in 1942. Montauk’s Camp Hero, now a state park, was named for him.

The second eatery in Montauk that has opened, in the middle of a lawsuit, is Seamore’s at the Breakers Motel. This motel, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, was built in the 1940s, before zoning restrictions. Originally, it had a restaurant on the property. But since at least 1970 that restaurant has been closed. Because the restaurant was built before zoning, it is grandfathered in, some said, and Breakers filed to re-open it. Neighbors objected. They said it was closed for years and so should not have been given a permit to open.

The matter is now in the courts. A decision is taking a long time, however, partly because Breakers is part owned by Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and his sister, Helen Ficalora. Schneiderman has held public office for nearly 20 years, before as East Hampton Town Supervisor and then Suffolk County Legislator. He wins elections by landslides. But the problem is that judges upon judges have recused themselves from adjudicating this case. They all know Mr. Schneiderman because they have worked with him. The case is still looking for a judge. So Seamore’s opened.

Lawsuits brought by local residents to get four-wheel-drive vehicles off of certain remote beaches have all failed for decades. But someone slashed the tires of people parked at Road A in Southampton last week, and in East Hampton the town trustees are thinking of monitoring the number of vehicles the locals use on Truck Beach because the numbers indicated in the lawsuit by oceanfront homeowners who filed a lawsuit (which failed) seem wildly overstated.

So where can the increasing number of people who come out here in the summertime go out to eat? Friends of mine, a week ago, landed a coveted reservation, for six weeks from now, at the EMP Summer House and have been telling everybody about it. They called the restaurant, but the restaurant wouldn’t take reservations. Online, they found the restaurant’s website only allows searches by day and hour on each attempt, and since they’d heard there were few, if any, available online and it would have taken almost 500 searches to scour every half-hour on each of the remaining 40 days of summer on the website, they gave up. Their only hope was to try to get a reservation using their American Express Platinum Card. Only Amex is accepted at the restaurant and only Amex Platinum allows you to use the Amex concierge service. So they called Amex and an Amex concierge, whose comments included “it’s my pleasure to serve you” and “fabulous” when the couple requested any one of five different days, at any time between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on those days. The next day, the concierge came back with the exciting news that the couple would be eating there on August 30, but they’d have to let him know right away because he couldn’t hold the reservation very long.

Food at restaurants such as these gets photographed so the plates appear in glossy magazines. There’s even been a report of paparazzi taking photographs of food through the windows at certain high-class restaurants. They don’t eat the food, they just photograph it. So they go hungry, too.

Someday soon you will see an emaciated hedge fund executive and his wife by the side of the road, holding a cardboard sign reading WILL GIVE BUSINESS ADVICE FOR FOOD. Could happen.

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