The Surf Lodge, the best known and most popular venue of the summer Montauk nighttime party music scene, is currently in prohibition mode after a pair of hearings March 6 and March 20 before the New York State Liquor Authority.
However, Jayma Cardoso, the face of the franchise, promises Surf Lodge will open on time, though with some new rules.
Vincent Bradley, chairman of the SLA, said on March 6 that the board would not allow the sale of alcohol at Surf Lodge while music is being played, unless and until East Hampton Town signs off on it.
The town and the Surf Lodge have been in litigation for years, with both sides having agreed to a settlement in 2016, which was modified in April 2018. According to the Town Attorney’s office, the terms of that settlement, which promised interior and exterior changes, have not yet been met. In particular, the town wants a new septic system in place before it will consider issuing a music permit.
In addition, the town charges that, while Surf Lodge is classified as a bar or restaurant, it is actually run as a live music venue, like a dancehall, catering to numbers far in excess of its permitted capacity.
The chairman of the SLA had some heated words for the business’s management. In turn, Cardoso, a founding partner and its popular front person, also spoke at the March 6 hearing in Albany. “It is literally impossible to do business in this town and sell the property that we own,” she told the SLA board about East Hampton. “It makes a difference if we or a new partner can do music.”
In an interview on Monday, Cardoso said what she said to the SLA was spoken out of frustration. “We really try to give back and be a good member of the community,” she said.
It has taken years to obtain a permit from the county for a new septic system, she said. A building permit, which covers the changes promised in the 2016 settlement, including the septic system, was issued by the town on March 11.
As for the suggestion that Surf Lodge might be for sale, she said that her partners remain on board. The partners, Cardoso said, all own houses In Montauk, and have “a common and shared goal of a healthy, cleaner Montauk.”
The Surf Lodge may be a victim of Cardoso’s winning touch. The SLA chairman said, “I understand that it is a very popular place, and people want the live music. I get that,” Bradley told Cardoso. “You said you wanted to include everybody. You can’t include everybody. You had 600 people in this place at one point. You don’t have parking for 600 people. Where are they parking their cars?”
Cardoso answered that the customers park on the street. “Exactly,” Bradley responded, “That is what the town’s concern is. People are going up and down in the street. Their job is to keep people safe.”
“I agree,” Cardoso answered. “But it is being painted as the worst place in the world. Meanwhile, families go there.”
“It is not being painted as the worst place in the world,” Bradley responded. “It is being painted as a place, at least from what I can see, that has been asked to follow certain rules, and has agreed to follow them, and that didn’t all the time.” As an example, he cited multiple maximum occupancy violations issued last year by the East Hampton Fire Marshal’s office.
Cardoso promised major changes this season. “We are willing not to have live music on Saturday,” she said. In addition, instead of crowds waiting outside to get in, there will be a reservation system in place on weekends. The Surf Lodge will take cell numbers and contact customers when space is available. “We have never taken reservations until this year. We have no choice,” Cardoso said.
Cardoso agreed to pay a $55,000 fine to the SLA.
On March 6, Bradley asked if the permits for the work needed to comply with the 2016 settlement were in place. “We haven’t applied yet,” Cardoso said. “We don’t know if it continues to make sense in a town that doesn’t want us.” Again, Cardoso said Monday, this was spoken out of frustration. “We try to listen to the concerns of the town board and its departments,” she said.
As noted above, building permits for the work were issued March 11. Cardoso said that the changes called for in the settlement with the town, including the installation of a state-of-the-art septic system, are under way. She is hoping that the town will “support us by helping get timely approvals from all the various agencies necessary to issue a certificate of occupancy.”
Bradley said that, if the town signs off on a music permit for Surf Lodge, the SLA would quickly act to turn the music back on at Surf Lodge.
“Time will be tight for the start of summer,” Cardoso said.