Il Buco at Mostrador Marram, an eatery at the Marram resort in Montauk, will remain open under a temporary restraining order, as negotiated between the owners of Marram and the Town of East Hampton. However, under the terms of the TRO, Marram and its staff are prohibited from serving anyone on the property outside the restaurant or snack bar area itself. An earlier story inaccurately reported that the TRO required the closing of Il Buco at Mostrador Marram.
The Town of East Hampton and the owners of Marram, the renovated, modernized resort which replaced the old Atlantic Terrace resort on Ocean View Terrace in Montauk find themselves in a high-stakes legal poker game, with neither side willing to fold.
The legal issue may come down to the question of what is a snack bar and what is a restaurant, and is there a difference between the two.
Eric Bregman, attorney for Marram, argues in his brief to the New York State Supreme Court, that there is no difference. He writes that there is no definition of “snack bar” in the town code. Rather, there are restaurants.
Under a temporary court agreement between the town and Bridgeton Holdings, the company that is part owner and full time manager of Marram, the restaurant on the site, Il Buco at Mostrador Marram, which the town says was built illegally, will refrain from serving any customers on the property not actually inside Il Buco at Mostrador Marram.
According to the town, when the property was purchased, the buyers should have known the limits of what can legally be done on the site. That excludes restaurants and bars, the town says.
Marram, represented by Bregman, however, points to a 1968 East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals decision that granted a small poolside bar, as well as the presence in the current certificate of occupancy, which refers to a “snack bar for retail use only” as being proof that the restaurant is an allowed use on the property.
The town said in a statement issued by Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc on August 26 that “the temporary restraining order was implemented after negotiations between the town and Marram’s representatives, who agreed to cease the activities in question.”
However, the release generated some confusion about which “activities in question” were being referenced. A press release from Marram released in response read, in part, “We are aware of a press release issued by the Town of East Hampton which incorrectly characterizes the temporary restraining order signed on August 24, 2020 as halting restaurant and bar service at the Marram Hotel.”
In the town’s press release, the town states that the temporary “order bars the resort from continuing restaurant, bar, and takeout service.”
The confusion may stem from the language of the TRO itself, particularly when it states that Marram or any other entity “will not provide the service of food or alcoholic beverages to patrons of Il Buco at Mostrador Marram seated at tables on the grounds of the subject premises or at the beach area.”
The New York State Liquor Authority issued a temporary liquor license to Marram earlier this year, over the Town of East Hampton’s objections.
The temporary restraining order issued by New York State Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth H. Emerson on August 24 states that Marram, or any other parties, are prohibited “from using or operating a restaurant with table service, takeout service and expanded outdoor cooking area, indoor bar and outdoor bar.” But, at the same time, it recognizes that Il Buco at Mostrador Marram is a business in operation on the site, which can be used by “patrons.”
The TRO is in effect until the two sides meet again in court this October.
The oceanfront resort is zoned residential, but predates the writing of the town’s zoning code, allowing it to operate as a pre-existing business. There are private homes on both the north and east sides of the property.
It was purchased for over $32 million by la Delaware-based limited liability company called Oceanview Terrace Hotel. It appears that a major partner in the purchase was Blue Vista Real Estate Partners, a privately held real estate investment firm based in Chicago.
The ownership package is two-tiered, that is, one group owns the site itself, the other the management company for the site, and the liquor license. Blue Vista’s clients include multi-national corporations as well as large pension funds. One of those pension funds, the Missouri State Employee Pension Fund, own 24 percent of the management group at Marram.
Marram is one of three resort properties in the Town of East Hampton in which Bridgeton Holdings, which is headed by Atit Jariwala, hold both a stake in the property and a major share of the management company and liquor license. The town has locked horns with Bridgeton Holdings over the other two resorts as well, Hero Beach in Montauk, and Journey East in East Hampton, over zoning issues.
The purchase price of over $32 million for Marram is many multiples higher than that paid for the other two properties in the town Bridgeton Holdings is involved with. Rooms are much more expensive at Marram than at the other two, as well, going for $800 to a $1,000 or more a night, according to Marram’s website. At those prices, having a restaurant onsite would seem to be a must. Bregman writes to the court in his response to the town’s original complaint, filed last month, “Closing the snack bar and bar would be very harmful to Defendant. It has developed a high-quality location, with a high-class operation.” By snack bar and bar, Bregman is referring to Il Buco at Mostrador Marram.
But the Town of East Hampton says the property is zoned residential, with private residences to its north and east, and that precludes any expansion of a non-conforming use such as a restaurant unless and until Bridgeton Holdings can obtain permits and site plan approval from the East Hampton Town Board.
The local residents who live in the neighborhood Marram opposed the bar in 1968 during a public ZBA hearing and remain strongly opposed to it in 2020.