COVID-19 or not, Memorial Day weekend is here

Businesses Prepare




“We can’t shelter in place forever,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said Monday as he prepared for Memorial Day weekend. “We’ve got to adapt.”

Hotels like Royal Atlantic Beach Resort in Montauk are accepting reservations online with a non-refundable 50-percent deposit required upfront.

Van Scoyoc, who has expressed wariness over a sudden influx of tourists, sent a letter, along with his fellow town board members, to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asking for clarification on the difference between hotels being classified as an essential business, and the current ban on promoting attractions that would draw a large number of outside visitors. Booking tourists into hotels would seem to be doing just that, the supervisor reasoned.

He pointed out May 18 that East Hampton Town’s infection rate was second lowest in the county, only higher than Shelter Island.

Hotels that had not yet opened, as well as bars and restaurants, were still preparing last week, both for the short and long term.

The iconic neon lunch sign over The Lobster Roll on Montauk Highway in Amagansett was again drawing crowds this week, though for curbside takeout only. Co-owner Andrea Anthony said if and when she gets the okay to open the restaurant, capacity will be reduced to ensure social distancing.

It is unclear whether Montauk’s The Surf Lodge will open. Earlier this month, Jayma Cardoso, the manager of the hot night spot, told The Independent she was considering remaining closed this year. But since then, workers have been seen sprucing up the inside and outside of the site. When asked if there was an opening date, a worker on the grounds said “possibly in July.” How social distancing at a bar that draws a singles scene during the summer, as well as crowds for live music, will be accomplished remains to be seen.

One live music venue that is weighing how to open while complying with COVID-19 restrictions is The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett. Nick Kraus, a partner at the music hall, said options are still being discussed.

“Our first priority is to make sure we keep our staff, musical acts, and customers safe,” he said, “which is why we closed two weeks before the closing mandate was put in place to begin with.”

In the meantime, the venue is starting a remote music series beginning Thursday, May 21.

Dede Gotthelf, owner of The Southampton Inn, said she is offering full refunds, but also a new pricing package to attract guests.

“The Southampton Inn has had to pivot to accommodate the unique concerns for the 2020 season,” she said. “We have numerous inquiries for extended stays for full months,” from June 1 through August 31.

Gotthelf added the inn has put in place stringent protocol for its masked and gloved staff, and is sanitizing rooms thoroughly to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements.

The Hedges Inn in East Hampton is going a step further, the entire inn is for rent June 1 through Labor Day for $1 million, or $350,000 for one month, though that price is negotiable, according to inn keeper and head chef Jenny Lilja.

“I don’t feel comfortable,” she said, bringing guests in during the COVID-19 era. While the grounds are spacious, the interior is not, with narrow hallways. “It is, essentially, a bed and breakfast,” she added.

Lilja said she was fully booked for the Memorial Day weekend, then the cancelations began pouring in. Lilja was down to one family who had been coming there for the weekend for years, booking six rooms. When they canceled, the writing on the wall was clear.

She would not feel comfortable, she reiterated, booking the normal 2800 to 3000 guests a summer season. How do you keep the staff safe?

“It’s daunting, and, frankly, scary,” said Lilja.

Hedges Inn has been booked up by large groups in the past for extended stays before, such as film crews, or even private security firms working for some of the well-heeled East Hampton visitors or residents.

If no one takes up their negotiable offer, and reservations remain as they are, “We might just call it for the whole season,” Lilja said.

She commented in support of Van Scoyoc’s letter to the governor asking about hotels attracting tourists into the community, increasing the risk of spreading the disease. “We are very lucky to live where we do.”

Nicole Teitler contributed reporting.

t.e@indyeastend.com