A Montauk restaurant with a grand-opening celebration planned this weekend was destroyed in an overnight fire.
At 12:11 a.m. Friday, dispatchers got the call about a structure fire at 435 East Lake Drive, currently home to the restaurant Maison Close Montauk, previously the longtime home of Rick's Crabby Cowboy Café.
"When our first responders arrived, the building was fully engulfed," Eddie Ecker, a captain and public information officer for the Montauk Fire Department, said on Friday morning. "We responded with multiple apparatus: two pumpers, two water tankers, our tower ladder, and a couple of ambulances. There were patrons in there, but everybody was safely removed."
He said the building was damaged irreparably, and that the fire rekindled twice Friday morning.
The Amagansett Fire Department was also on scene. East Hampton Fire Department responders headed east to back up the Montauk department, and the Springs Fire Department stood by at East Hampton.
"What a fire," said Kimberly Esperian, a resident of Second House Road, who said she woke up to sirens between midnight and 1 a.m. "It was billowing smoke. The bells kept going off — never heard them going off so often."
Ms. Esperian described a scene of locals watching the fire burn from the Montauk Yacht Club, across Lake Montauk from the restaurant. "There were about eight of us there, and others coming and going. Two firemen had come out from Southampton because they heard about it," she said.
On Friday morning, East Hampton Town fire marshals were investigating the cause. Mr. Ecker said heavy equipment was brought it to knock down the remains of the building.
The restaurant was set for a grand opening this weekend as Maison Close, which also has a location in Manhattan. "Maison Close Montauk boasts an open yet intimate space that features the same elevated Parisian bistro cuisine with a beachside setting that's befitting to its new outpost," read an announcement on its website. It was to be run by the same group operating Ruschmeyer's on Second House Road in Montauk.
Soon after, a different announcement altogether came from the restaurants' public relations firm, R&CPMK. "We are sorry to announce that last night a fire claimed Maison Close Montauk at 435 East Lake Drive. The team is thankful that no one was hurt and for the assistance and bravery of the Montauk Fire Department. They are cooperating with authorities as they investigate the matter, and we do not have further updates at this time," said Nicole Cappuccio, an account manager.
In April of 2021, Rick's Crabby was sold for $13.9 million.
The East Hampton Town Planning Board, in late 2021, came down hard on a redevelopment plan proposed by the new owner, 435 East Lake Drive L.L.C., which had proposed a 14-unit luxury resort with a 110-seat restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and fitness center. The property is five acres and includes 6.75 acres of additional underwater land with 22 boat slips. The application was ultimately withdrawn.
This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.