For the second time in three weeks, the East Hampton Town Planning Board wrestled with the possibility of granting a permit for a restaurant for the Hero Beach Club in downtown Montauk, also known as the Oceanside Resort. The board held off scheduling a public hearing for the proposal for at least two weeks while the applicant finalizes a survey. Again, as at their previous meeting, several board members continued to question the site plan’s scope and purpose.
Britton Bistrian, who represents the owners, a partnership headed by Jon Krasner, started the June 27 meeting by reading from the original narrative for the special permit the owners are seeking for the town. “It is literally the gateway to Montauk, the first business you reach upon entering the downtown area,” she told the board. That narrative was written June 14, 2017.
“Guests have come to expect different amenities at [resorts] and this application proposes a minimalist amenity of basic food service to our guests.” No place in the original narrative is alcohol mentioned, other than when Bistrian wrote, “This is not intended to be a restaurant or a bar with full service to the public.” The restaurant, according to the plans, has table seating for 16.
Two weeks after Bistrian wrote that original narrative, the New York State Liquor Authority issued a license to Hero Beach Club to sell alcohol. The license Hero Beach Club obtained, dated June 29, 2017, allows it to have up to 499 customers on the property, with dancing and recorded and live music, with promises of performances by major acts like Jimmy Buffett.
However, Krasner said Monday, the goal of the ownership group is not to create a new downtown Montauk “hot spot” with large crowds, but rather, a high-end resort with the amenities that such a clientele has come to expect. “We are a wellness hotel,” he said. “We want to be the leaders in developing the next generation of Montauk hotels.”
The resort was purchased in the fall of 2016 for $9.6 million. Krasner said recently that the partnership has invested another $4 million in renovations. In a previous interview, Krasner pointed out the money he and his partners have invested in the project, and, by extension, in the town. But Randy Parsons, board member, said on June 27, “The site was very constrained when the owners bought it. We can’t morph it into a more useable site. It is a small site with a lot going on.”
“This is so difficult because this whole application is designed to bring large numbers of people to the site,” Job Potter, the board’s chairman, said. Potter added that, looking at the Hero Beach Club website, it appeared that the owners are creating a party destination. He said they already obtained one mass gathering permit from the town for a recent event called “Maybeline,” and had applied for another permit for July 4.
Krasner believes that the management group is being unfairly treated, that board members are comparing Hero Beach Club to establishments that generated controversy in recent years in Montauk. While he would not name those establishments, he could have been referencing the early years of Surf Lodge, or more recently, Ruschmeyer’s.
Parking at and around the Hero Beach Club has been a contentious issue from the first time the board took up the application on May 3 of last year. There are about 21 parking spaces on the property, which would be inadequate by current zoning law standards. However, the site predates the zoning code, and the parking is, therefore, grandfathered in.
The plans include removing four rooms, cutting the total number in the motel’s three buildings to a combined 30, to make room for the restaurant. Ann Glennon, the town’s principal building inspector, ruled that the parking onsite is adequate, given that it is grandfathered in. Ditch Plains Association has launched a suit against the town, challenging that finding.
Parsons asked that the applicants delineate all parking, including public parking, on and around the site. He pointed out that the owners are marking public parking spaces on South Eton Street, which is on the western border of the property, with signs that read, “Private Parking, Vehicles Will Be Towed at Owner’s Expense.”
“But if those signs shouldn’t be there, those signs shouldn’t be there,” Ian Calder-Piedmonte said. “That certainly is enforceable, right? If we are going to say that our town can’t enforce someone with a blatant sign . . .” he said, adding that he did not believe parking spaces not on the property should be marked on a survey, lest, in the future, such a survey could be confused with the board having actually approved of off-site parking as part of the plan.
Krasner said, “Everything that we have done with parking has been done to code. The hotel has that right of way,” adding that it has been that way since 1952, when the Oceanside Resort first opened.
Bistrian pushed the board to schedule a public hearing, which is required before is can actually issue an approval of the plan with a permit. The board, however, tabled that idea, until it has a final survey. The public will eventually get to weigh in on Hero Beach Club, likely next month.
“We have no citations. We clean the beach every day,” Krasner said. “We want to set an example of how to run a hotel.”