Members of the East Hampton Town Board are correct in asking the question once again about the commercial use of beaches. A conversation they had recently about capping the number of guests at some events may not have gone far enough.
Over the years, catered parties on town beaches have become ever more frequent. The parties tend to be at the sites with ample parking, for which a town permit is necessary, but can pop up anywhere. Tents are not allowed, other than for food preparation, but the setups can be elaborate, with tables, pillows, bars, torches, and firepits. Caterers and event planners handle the logistics from hiring staff to obtaining permits — an important consideration for hosts from away who are unfamiliar with town requirements. For those able to afford it, these provide a turn-key experience that looks terrific on social media. But the parties also effectively cordon off the beaches for others’ enjoyment and raise the question of whether anyone should in fact be making money from such cherished public assets, especially if the events are organized for people who do not live in the town.
The town board last month publicly talked about limiting the size of beach parties at 50. This still seems too generous, especially in peak season, when more than one catered event is frequently observed at beaches including Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett. The East Hampton Town Trustees, who are the actual owners on behalf of the public of these beaches, might want to weigh in on this question as well.
East Hampton Town has been generous in the past in allowing catered events on its beaches. As demand from all user groups continues to grow, the board must impose tougher limits.