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Members Only at the Hedges Inn?

Wed, 04/17/2024 - 19:57
The Hedges Inn
Jamie Bufalino

Zero Bond, a private social club based in New York City, is negotiating with the historic Hedges Inn to lease the property.

Christopher Kelley, a lawyer representing John Cumming, an owner of the Hedges Inn, confirmed the much-bandied-about rumor in a phone call Tuesday. Two weeks ago, a woman who answered a call to Zero Bond in Manhattan denied that the business — which offers its members space for meals, drinks, and meetings — was looking to open in East Hampton.

"We're not denying that at all," said Mr. Kelley. "The owner of Zero Bond went in and talked with my client and the village administration to discuss how proposed legislation would impact them."

The proposed legislation he speaks of will be the subject of a public hearing at Friday's East Hampton Village Board meeting, to be held at 11 a.m. at LTV Studios in Wainscott. The Hedges Inn is in a historic district and the village is now seeking to amend the code pertaining to the protection of its historic areas by adding a section that would prohibit any "eating and drinking establishment located in a historic district" from remaining open for business or taking "orders of food and/or beverages, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m."

Mr. Kelley said the lease was being held up because of the threat of the legislation. "No lease has been signed." He said he would be present at Friday's meeting, along with Adam Miller, the lawyer representing Zero Bond, to oppose the law. Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.

In a phone call yesterday morning, Mayor Jerry Larsen was undeterred.

"The owner of the Hedges Inn should be ashamed of himself for trying to push this on the village," he said. "This is about greed. There are rumors they will fight us in court if we pass any of this legislation. Well, that's a fight I'm willing to take. That's how strongly I feel about this. Our historic, beautiful inns should be open to the public so people can visit them and understand our history. This is my responsibility. I think it would be sad to lose the inn to a private membership club."

Mr. Kelley questioned the motivation for the legislation. "To the extent they say it's about noise, that's garbage," he said, "All the inns house people for a quiet night. They're not going to want to sleep above a club. The village is trying to use unlawful means to influence a market force. The village can't regulate places that sell alcohol. Only the State Liquor Authority can do that. They're barking up the wrong tree here. They don't have this regulatory power that they think they have. I don't think they have the right to regulate the form of ownership. Privatization is not a use. You can regulate use but not ownership."

Zero Bond, in the tradition of London social clubs or SoHo House, serves as a restaurant, drinks destination, and meet-up for its members. It is familiar to followers of celebrity culture for the stars and power brokers who have been photographed coming and going from its original location in Manhattan's NoHo neighborhood, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Gisele Bundchen, and Mayor Eric Adams. The bar at Zero Bond was the setting for the finale of the hit series "Succession" last year. Elon Musk, according to The New York Times, held an after-party at Zero Bond the night of the Met Gala in 2021; Gigi Hadid hosted her 27th-birthday party there. A second Zero Bond location is slated to open next year at the Wynn Las Vegas resort in Las Vegas.

"To make it even more evident of the transparent and good faith efforts of Scott Sartiano, the founder of Zero Bond, he wants to buy the house next door. He's not going to want to live next door to an all-night disco."

Mr. Sartiano, who is also a co-owner, explained the allure of Zero Bond to The New York Post last summer by highlighting its exclusivity. Although there are membership fees, he said, "[y]ou can't buy your way in. You can't buy cool. Nobody goes to a place to look at an old rich guy. In a lot of these [private members clubs], money can buy your way into a lot of places."

Mayor Larsen was quick to point out that traditional dinner service, which typically ends by 10 p.m., would not be impacted by the proposed legislation.

"We're doing the whole historic district; this isn't specifically about the Hedges Inn," said Mayor Larsen. "My support of the inns has been clear from the beginning. We don't want the inns to close. This legislation is being instituted to protect the residents who live near the inns. If you're not trying to run a late-night club, this law doesn't affect you. This village board feels very strongly about this, and we'll fight it. I'm not against Zero Bond. If they're complying with the law, I have no problem with them."

Social media has already grabbed a hold of Zero Bond as a hot topic. The East Hampton Village Civic Coalition posted a note about it to Facebook this week: "Idling Ubers, car doors slamming, dining noise trickling out. Paparazzi will be lurking to catch sign of the Zero Bond members who include Elon Musk, Tom Brady, Sergei Brin (all single billionaires), and Taylor Swift. Kim Kardashian is frequently sighted at their club. Non-famous members need to provide a headshot to be accepted."

Mayor Larsen even had to respond to an email chain that circulated falsely claiming the village was working with Zero Bond to allow it to stay open to 4 a.m.

"Currently there is no regulation in place that requires a restaurant in that area to close at a certain time," Mayor Larsen said. "We have heard rumors that 'late night' membership clubs are looking to lease or even buy one or more of the historic inns and basically run them as private clubs until the early morning hours. I have been fighting against late night clubs even over the past 20 years when I served this village as its police chief. We are encouraging/asking residents to come to the meeting on Friday and support the legislation."

In a response to a request for comment a spokesman for Bond Hospitality, the parent company for Zero Bond and Sartiano's restaurant at the Mercer hotel, told The Star yesterday, "Zero Bond is a private membership social restaurant with an impeccable reputation in Manhattan. Zero Bond caters to an array of pre-screened members from diverse backgrounds who are united by their shared enthusiasm for food and enriching experiences, catering particularly to a more mature and sophisticated demographic. At this time, they have not confirmed any deals to open in the Hamptons. However, if it were to establish itself out east, it would diligently adhere to local regulations, mirroring its operations in Manhattan and would be a commendable asset to any community."

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