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No to Alcohol at Main Beach

Thu, 03/17/2022 - 05:44


Something about selling alcohol at East Hampton Main Beach seems off, but it may be coming. In keeping with the village board majority’s new party-hearty attitude, the operator of the concession there has asked the New York State Liquor Authority for a license to serve beer and wine. Plans are also in the works for dinner service until 9 p.m. under the Main Beach pavilion, as well as for a breakfast menu, beginning at 8 a.m. daily in season.

With these additions, the onetime fried food, soft drinks, and ice cream spot appears to be taking on the aspects of a full-fledged restaurant — and that should raise concerns about a de facto privatization of cherished public space.

For more than a century, the shaded Main Beach Pavilion has been shared by all; village officials must be vigilant about maintaining that sense of welcome. Once a liquor license is in hand for a location, it becomes easier for subsequent tenants to obtain their own. Commercial creep could eventually result in a restaurant there, one that excluded anyone not seated at a table from enjoying the best part of the pavilion. “Day drinking” can be very unpleasant to be around if one is not taking part, and is something that parents generally do not want their young children to encounter on the way to and from the beach restrooms — or when they dash across the hot sand, money in hand, to buy an ice pop.

Alcoholic beverages and swimming, especially in the ocean, do not mix well. The Centers for Disease Control make that plain: Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in as many as 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, nearly one in four emergency department visits for near-drownings, and about one in five reported boating deaths. For this alone, the village board should say no to alcohol at its facilities. That and a common desire for a peaceful summer scene on the sand were the motivation for banning beer, wine, and hard liquor from the village beaches. It is not clear that a concession-holder’s financial needs should upend that longstanding policy.

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