East Hampton Town appears about to have the wool pulled over its eyes again in Montauk, this time by a hotel that wants to add a restaurant. Hero Beach Club, at the entrance to downtown, is already promoting a $200-per-person sushi experience for its “guests.” The problem is one missing word: “overnight.”
A planning board hearing later this month will consider “food, kitchen, room service/catering” that “will only service guests of the hotel.” Food, a draft of the covenant states, “will be ordered on a Hero Beach Club app and will be regulated. Oceanside Owners L.L.C. will operate food service only when the hotel is open and operating. Food service will not operate when the hotel is closed.” But this leaves the restaurant door wide open, so to speak, for a hotel to define “guests” any which way it wants. Day rentals of beach cabanas and poolside lounge chairs have become quite the thing in Montauk. It would not be a stretch for Hero Beach or any other location to include its non-overnight clientele among the “guests” to whom food could be sold. For example, just up the way, for “guests” at Gurney’s, “daybed reservations carry a $1,000 rental fee + $1,000 food and beverage minimum,” it says on its website.
Town officials should know by now that once a restaurant or outdoor music is added to an existing business, there is no practical way for them to control what happens there. The temptation for resort operators to cash in is way too great. Ordinance enforcers are spread far too thin already, and determining who is or is not actually a “guest” is functionally impossible. Further, one wonders where the staff for these restaurants will come from — already there is a work-force crisis here made worse by nearly intolerable commuter traffic. There is too much going on in Montauk already. For the town planners to potentially make it worse is unconscionable.