Love Songs, Etc: Defending Live Music in Montauk, and the Duryea’s Controversy

No music shark cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Two weeks ago the Town of East Hampton, which administers Montauk, said it will not be issuing a 2019 permit to The Surf Lodge, the premier and earliest entertainment venue in town for outdoor musical performances. They cited repeated violations of the town ordinances.

Now, the Town of East Hampton is considering amendments to their code that could further seriously affect the entertainment business in Montauk. Music is big business in Montauk now, drawing very well regarded national performers. The town is making a name for itself musically. So here come the regulators. And here are the proposed new regulations.

If inspectors find at least two regulations being breached involving noise, hours, music, fire prevention, special events or zoning, and a conviction resulted, the permits to have music at the venue—live or otherwise –can be denied. Permits can also be denied if an owner of an establishment is convicted of violating any two or more rules of the town code, not just music entertainment regulations but any regulation of fire prevention, special events, noise or zoning, in the last 36 months. Permits would no longer be issued for free nor be automatically renewed every year. Now they would cost $100 and will be good for only one year. And the cost of the permits could go up in future years.

Permits can also not be used to expand the occupancy size or for other purposes than those intended. To get a permit, the owner of an entertainment establishment would need to show a valid certificate of occupancy, a paper showing that a bar or restaurant is an approved activity at the location, a floor plan and seating chart to show where everybody would sit, and if all this is not done properly, a denial of a music entertainment permit would result, with an appeal of the decision only allowed if presented in writing within 60 days of the violation to a panel of authorities that would include members of code enforcement, police and fire department officers, emergency officials and building department members.

Practically every member of the local music industry appeared at the Town Board meeting where this was discussed to oppose the passage of these draconian measures. And I join in this opposition.

As it happens, nearly all the venues where music is performed are in areas where there are no great number of residences nearby to disturb. Music is magical. Montauk is not the Hamptons. And what could be more appropriate for a resort town, anyway? There should be limits, but this is way beyond what is needed. I hope the Town Board does not pass this proposal but finds a less open-ended way of regulating this business. Think Austin, Texas, think Nashville, think Charleston. And remember that a few years ago, when the wrong elements came here, the situation was dealt with by having an increased police presence.

Interestingly, at this moment, the Town Board has indicated it might give approval to the creation of a new restaurant at Duryea’s Lobster Deck, which has never had anything other than a takeout restaurant before. This is along Tuthill Road, a residential road and in a residential area.

There is also this: For many, many years, Perry Duryea placed a barrier across Tuthill Road alongside what was then a wholesale lobster house, claiming he and his family owned the road and they could deny the public use of it. It was originally a private driveway to their business, and he’d always said he would do this once a year for a 24-hour period to keep his “ownership” rights alive. When they put the chain across the road in 1997, I recall, some people cut it. The Duryeas responded by unloading a pile of boulders in the road.

A great uproar ensued over this, and I remember it. Those living in Old Town, the historic first settlement of Montauk, a few hundred yards from Duryea’s, would have to take a 10-minute, two-mile detour to get to, for example, the railroad station, which is in sight of those living on Tuthill Road. Ambulances and fire trucks would have to take this detour to get to anybody if this were to be allowed. This was a horrible situation.

Nowhere have I seen any indication that this challenge to Tuthill Road has been dealt with in this new application. Back in 1997, as I recall, the attempt to close the road in this way was abandoned only because of this pressure from the owners of the residences who’d been cut off.

Now they are considering a full restaurant on this site, where only take-out meals had been offered before. I’m told the Town now seems to be backtracking on their earlier deal regarding approvals. This definitely needs
further study.

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