Having observed what has happened to Montauk, members of the East Hampton Town Planning Board may have been extra sensitive to proposed changes to the Springs General Store involving on-premises alcohol consumption. Indeed, one member from Montauk, Louis Cortese, zoomed in on what he called “application creep” in which low-impact businesses are remade and expanded, with negative consequences reaching far beyond their property lines.
The new owner of the Springs General Store, John Bennett, has applied to the New York State Liquor Authority for the expanded permission. Under the plan, patrons could enjoy live music with glasses of wine from outdoor tables. Though Mr. Bennett tried to reassure the planning board at a recent meeting that any offerings of the sort might be limited, experience has demonstrated quite the opposite, as limited liquor or food service has led to far more as properties evolve and owners’ plans evolve.
The fact that the Springs General Store is a town historic site and in an exceptionally lovely location is a factor, but hardly the only one. Expansion of modest businesses into high-end hot spots — often near or in residential areas — has harmed the quality of life across East Hampton. Not terribly far away, neighbors of the new Rita’s Cantina restaurant in Maidstone Park are fighting its spiraling growth. In Montauk, the Surf Lodge was allowed to operate for years without adequate permits and still managed to become a crowd-drawing outdoor concert venue. It is very important that officials take a very hard look at these kinds of projects and the Springs General Store is a good place to draw the line.