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Over the Limits in Montauk

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 18:41


All one has to do is keep an eye on social media to know that something is wrong in Montauk. Crowds of drinkers and people dancing have mobbed outdoor spaces at once-mellow bars and restaurants, bringing a spring break style party to the easternmost hamlet every weekend. East Hampton Town officials last week took a shot at turning the party volume down, preparing legal action against two allegedly repeat offender restaurants. More attempts to enforce the rules on overcrowding, rentals, noise, and outdoor spaces could be ahead.

Quite clearly, many operators are unable — or unwilling — to comply with such things as their maximum number of guests. According to the town attorney’s office, officials have documented illegal overcrowding at tt’s (short for “tacos and tequila,” apparently) on West Lake Drive and Sel Rrose downtown. Other hotspots, while maybe complying with their respective occupancy numbers, create parking problems with people walking into traffic and ride-share drivers stopping wherever they please.

A look at Instagram gives a hint of what it is like: people shoulder to shoulder grooving to live bands, red Solo cups in hand. One video featured a wildly packed outdoor dance area near the docks. At another bar, a performer we spoke to described how every inch of outdoor space was filled during a sunset gig, with patrons falling or being pushed onto the makeshift stage. Some time back, a late-night restaurant scene on East Lake Drive became so popular that emergency vehicles could not make it down the narrowed roadway to aid a sick patient. Note, however, that some operators have scrubbed their accounts of damning photographs and clips since Town Hall got serious.

On the rental front, in June, town prosecutors accused the owner of a Montauk house — walking distance to a number of nightspots — of renting it at least 55 times over a nine-month period via AirBnb. The East Hampton Town Code allows no more than two rentals shorter than two weeks in any six-month period. By the math, the Brooklyn owner appeared very much in violation of that law; he could face about $200,000 in fines.

Whether the people who actually live in Montauk — or the town as a whole — truly benefit is doubtful. What is beyond dispute is that the locals end up paying, both through taxes for police and litter pickup, for example, and through the heroic work of the volunteer firefighters and ambulance crews, for a lot of the fun. Yes, tons of money sloshes around during the Montauk summer, but we believe that the net flow is actually out of town to absentee owners and seasonal workers. The party crowd, staying four or more to a room or driving in from points west for an evening, do relatively little to bolster the year-rounders who then are expected to deal with the headaches they create.

Montauk long ago became a thing, but, even so, town officials are absolutely right to make sure it does not get too far out of hand.

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