It’s the three-legged stool of Montauk — not a watering hole but a situation.
Sidewalk dining along Main Street in Montauk does go on with East Hampton officials oftentimes turning a blind eye. But with the town’s new proposal, they need not look the other way.
The East Hampton Town Board is proposing to legalize sidewalk dining for small take-out restaurants as part of its Downtown Montauk Outdoor Dining Right-of-way Pilot Program.
Under the proposed code amendment, take-out establishments like delicatessens will be able to apply to the town’s fire marshal for no more than 16 seats outside. However, they can split the seating up with eight on the inside and eight on the outside, in accordance with Suffolk County Department of Health Services regulations, said Councilwoman Sylvia Overby.
Restaurants must also have their Certificate of Occupancy in order, submit to a safety inspection, and obtain approval of their seating layout. Permits are $150 under the program.
The program was approved in December 2016, first tackling restaurants that wanted to expand dining outdoors.
“The last part of the legislation is that there are a lot of take-out places in Montauk that have tables outside, so we wanted to not punish them and have code enforcement go through,” Overby said of code enforcement inspections. “We wanted to make it legal, so this is the third leg of that stool.”
The special provision does not apply to food trucks.
Overby said town officials have been in discussions about outdoor dining for at least two years throughout several work sessions, with an aim to get the legislation “correct.” The topic became an issue because the town realized visitors enjoy eating outside and it is allowed in other communities on the East End such as Bridgehampton, she added.
“This is also to be in line with what other communities are doing, and people enjoy it, and almost expect it in a resort community like ours,” she said. “So, we wanted to make sure it was done appropriately and that people didn’t feel the whole sidewalk was taken up with tables and chairs and they couldn’t get through.”
“Hopefully, we crafted it so people can take advantage of it — restaurants and take-out, now,” the councilwoman added.
The move is not without a caveat.
Tables and chairs will have to be brought inside and cannot be left out overnight, and umbrellas will not be allowed at tables because they can be dangerous, and can injure passersby, Overby noted. The town could consider whether to allow umbrellas at high bar tables with bar stools because there would not be the same danger, she said.
“There are things that we might have to come back and look at — it’s not always perfect,” she said. “We could come back and make adjustments to what people really want and need.”
The public hearing has been scheduled for April 5 at town hall.