Gripes Aired On Proposed East Hampton Music Permit Law

Nancy Atlas. Independent/T. E. McMorrow

The second installment of a public hearing on legislation to finetune East Hampton’s law regarding music permits proved less raucous, though it contained some of the same refrains: accusations that the town board is trying to silence musicians and acting to put bar and restaurant owners out of business, particularly those in Montauk.

NancyLynn Thiele, an attorney for the town, started the January 16 hearing off by laying out the changes.

An aspect of the current law is not enforceable, she said, because the town clerk has the discretion to deny the renewal of a music permit if an establishment were to get summonsed on three separate occasions. The new law states the town clerk must not renew a permit if an establishment has three convictions in a permit year.

The convictions, however, are only those in three specific areas: a violation of the music permit law itself, of the town’s laws regarding noise, and a violation of a law in one of two specific chapters in the state’s fire code, one covering fire prevention and carbon monoxide detection systems, and the other regulating safe egress to an establishment.

An independent board will hear appeals of a denial of a music permit renewal. Future town boards will be allowed to set fees on the permits, though none are currently proposed.

Thiele was followed by about a dozen speakers.

“The reality of it is we are probably closing The Shack this season because I can’t sustain the violations,” said Tracey Gardell, owner of 668 The Gig Shack in Montauk. “We’ve been a big part of your community, and we are going to miss you.”

Gardell said she was trying to operate a family restaurant that includes live music, but told the board, “the way that the laws are structured, you get violations, and they get reported to multiple agencies.”

“Why are we afraid of live music? I don’t get it,” said musician Nancy Atlas. “It’s time to change the conversation to celebrate our artists and our local musicians.”

Owner of Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Café in Montauk, Rick Gibbs, asked the town board: “Are you going to be able to buy all the businesses that you are putting out of business?”

Larry Siedlick, owner of The Montauk Beach House in downtown Montauk said there is a perception the legislation is written and designed to give the town more tools to shut down some of the “bad players.”

“That may not be your intent at all, but that is a perception I am hearing widely in the community,” he said.

He warned that without some clarification and direction in the law it’s impossible to predict how it will be enforced by future town boards.

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