On Monday, thanks to a reshuffling of its defense team, The Surf Lodge was granted an adjournment, yet again, on a court case leveling nearly 700 violations against the popular Montauk bar and restaurant.
“We have a new attorney on board,” said Justice Catherine A. Cahill. “Motions, if filed, will be before April 16.”
The change of counsel continues to stall the case of the , which stands charged with 686 violations of town code and one fire code violation racked up between May 28 and September 16 of last year.
The violations against owners Edgemere Montauk L.L.C. - which include no certificate of occupancy, no site plan approval, no building permit, illegal clearing of wetlands, property maintenance violations, and overcrowding - were issued on a daily basis throughout the season.
The case has been dating back to last year.
Thomas Horn, a former East Hampton Town fire marshal, has his own practice in Sag Harbor and will replace Colin Astarita, the defendants’ former attorney.
“I was very recently retained,” said Horn, who had just received the file and revealed his strategy to “try and follow the judge’s directions, and be ready by April 16.”
He admitted it was a short time frame for him to prepare “due to the sheer number of violations.”
Although Mr. Horn did not know how much time he would need, “I didn’t ask for longer because she [Justice Cahill] is, what one might say, respectfully impatient.”
East Hampton Town attorneys were opposed to the turn of events.
“We objected to making motions at this late date. But it was granted,” Mr. Gunn said. Looking ahead to the future, Mr. Gunn said, “If we can’t come up with an acceptable disposition, we will be proceeding to trial.”
Astarita had requested in January that Justice Cahill recuse herself from the case due to bias. claiming his grounds were unsupported.
The owners of the Surf Lodge were mandated by Justice Cahill to appear in court on March 26 for pre-trial motions. According to New York State law, a judge cannot force a corporation to make its members show up in court. For the next court date, Judge Cahill did not demand the owners be present.
Meanwhile, the Surf Lodge attempted this past fall to legalize a 5-by-8-foot hot dog cart and a 7-by-12-foot covered wait service area on the premises - both of which were frequently cited in the list of violations - via the East Hampton Town Planning Board. Tom Preiato, the town’s senior building inspector, determined the site plans “represent an expansion of a nonconforming use” which requires a special permit and a variance.
The board referred the project to the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals for approval of the needed variances and permits. The scheduled appeal of Mr. Preiato’s decision is on April 24.