South Fork Police Chiefs Talk Weekend

Gordon M. Grant
People enter and exit the beach on assigned sides at Nick’s Beach in Montauk on May 24.

After much trepidation and planning, the holiday weekend was a fairly smooth one for law enforcement, according to the police chiefs of East Hampton and Southampton Town Police Departments, though there were some bumps in the road.

Total calls for the East Hampton department were down significantly from the same time last year, Chief Michael Sarlo said Monday. From Friday through Monday morning at 6 AM, total calls had dropped from 347 last to 226 this year, a decrease of almost 35 percent. This decrease is almost certainly due to the absence this year of the normally raucous bar scene in Montauk. While day-trippers flooded Montauk while the sun was up, the streets of downtown Montauk were basically deserted throughout the weekend at night.

One bar, Liars’ Saloon, was shut down Friday evening for allegedly skirting the rules put in place by the state in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We had several other businesses selling alcohol to go, in cups with straws, which created a bit of a scramble for us Sunday afternoon,” the chief said. “We need to make it very clear, we are not trying to hurt these businesses, which are already suffering, but we need compliance with the orders and to maintain public order. We can’t allow open alcohol on the streets and we can’t condone the businesses just selling drinks alone without a take-out food order. The intent of the governor’s order was to allow restaurants to keep their inventory moving, and help the businesses in this difficult time, it was not to turn the streets into a free-for-all. To-go drinks should be brought home.”

“We also had several take-out businesses once again have their parking lot areas get very crowded, as lines formed to order and customers waited for their orders. Most were wearing masks and maintaining social distance, but we are working with these establishments to adjust their lines and ordering procedures to help them reduce crowding,” he added.

Sarlo was sympathetic to the needs of the business owners. “We understand how difficult this is for our local businesses, and we sympathize with their predicament.”

It’s been years since the bar scene in the Southampton department’s jurisdiction has been a major issue. However, this year, there were locations town police had to monitor this past weekend, according to Chief Steven Skrynecki, and those locations were a bit of surprise: bayside fishing areas.

Many fishing areas at the ends of roads on the bayside of Southampton were packed, to the point where police had to act to ensure social distancing. The area around Towd Point in North Sea was a particular problem. “There was an unusual influx of people into the township for fishing, much more than normal, much more than expected,” Skrynecki said. 

Police checked to make sure those fishing had valid permits. Those who did not were issued either citations or warnings.

The chief attributed the surprising increase in fishing in the Southampton township to two factors. First, that, farther west, many such locations are still closed, particularly in the outer boroughs of New York. In addition, party boats are not going out.

Also, he said, “fishing reports are good, and word gets around.”

The chief said he was happy with the way the weekend went for his department.

Few problems were reported at the ocean beaches that were fully staffed and open for the weekend in both towns. Right now, in East Hampton Town, those include Nick’s Beach in downtown Montauk, the beach at the end of Ditch Plains Road in Ditch Plains, and Atlantic and Indian Wells beaches in Amagansett.

In Southampton town, the three beaches that are staffed and open on weekends now and going forward are Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays, Sagg Main in Sagaponack, and Long Beach in Sag Harbor.

Some bayside beaches will be opening in June in both towns.

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