The new owners of the in Montauk and the Town of East Hampton reached a settlement on Monday, ending a year-long saga in , when the business owners pleaded guilty to reduced charges and handed over $100,000 in fines.
“It’s a wonderful outcome for the town, and possibly the largest ordinance case we’ve ever brought, and the largest fine achieved by the town,” said Patrick Gunn, an assistant town attorney who oversees the code enforcement division.
Owners of the popular restaurant and bar had been charged with nearly 700 violations of the town code. The and as part of the deal, the new owners entered guilty pleas to 100 of the charges at $1,000 a piece, resulting in the six-figure fine.
In the stipulation of settlement, the court accepted Montauk Properties, the new owners of the Surf Lodge as of April 27, as a “corporate substitution” to act on behalf of Edgemere Montauk, LLC, the former owners, to resolve the outstanding violations accrued at the hot-spot between May 28 through Sept. 16, 2011. The original list of violations includes no certificate of occupancy, no site plan approval, no building permit, illegal clearing of wetlands, property maintenance violations, overcrowding, and a fire code violation.
On Monday, Justice Catherine A. Cahill spoke at the bench with Thomas Horn, who represented Edgemere Montauk, and Richard A. Hammer of , counsel for Montauk Properties, and Robert Connelly, an assistant town attorney. She informed the attorneys it was in their best interest to have this on file, and said, “Let’s put this on the record.”
Cahill read a paragraph out loud from the settlement, in which the defendants pleaded guilty to 100 charges comprised of a fire code violation, 83 charges for no site plan approval, 14 for illegal clearing of wetlands, and two for overcrowding.
Just last week, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals reversed a decision made by senior Tom Preiato on June 2011 that was an expansion of a non-conforming use. The ZBA decision nullified many of the 686 alleged violations. However, the ZBA did find that a special permit was necessary for a post that covers the wait station.
Following the court’s acceptance of the settlement, Cahill said, “I sincerely hope we have a better season this year than we did last season, Mr. Hammer.” She alluded to the ZBA decision and said she understood Hammer was in communication with the town regarding ongoing issues. She also thanked counsel for their hard work and cooperation.
Gunn said he is also encouraged by the new management’s approach at the Surf Lodge. “We’ve had very proactive meetings with them. They didn’t want to go blind with us. They’ve been very cooperative,” Gunn said. “They have a genuine desire to change the image of the place. They’re asking us what they should do about traffic concerns, crowd concerns - that hasn’t happened before. We’re encouraged by that,” he added.
The agreed upon $100,000 fine has been on the table since October. “The town never waivered in its commitment,” Gunn said.
“The owners have accepted responsibility and recognized it’s important to resolve this chapter and move forward with this new vision,” Hammer said. “They want this as a community asset, not a topic of discussion that’s less than a positive light."
After handing over a $100,000 check at the window of the clerk’s office at Justice Court, Hammer turned towards Gunn and jokingly said, “We look forward to not talking to you again for some time.”
The settlement may serve as a precedent for the many new restaurants and bars slated to open on the east end this season. “We’re sending a message to other establishments in Montauk,” Connelly said. “Flouting of the town code and state code will not be tolerated.”