Chance of Settlement for Surf Lodge

Reduction in number of charges could lead to swift resolution for the club
The Surf Lodge’s legal troubles may be ending as a new summer season approaches.
The Surf Lodge’s legal troubles may be ending as a new summer season approaches. T.E. McMorrow

    The Surf Lodge saga in East Hampton Town Justice Court may finally be coming to an end, according to attorneys for both sides, who met in court on Monday.
     The court session began with Justice Catherine A. Cahill, in a very upbeat tone of voice, saying, “I see Mr. Horn is here, and I see Mr. Connelly is here.”
    “I believe Mr. Horn has a motion,” she said, as Robert Connelly, the town’s lead attorney on the case, stood up. Mr. Horn, the attorney since last month for Edgemere, the company that owns the club, made a motion to dismiss many of the 686 violations of the town’s code, as well as a single fire code violation.The justice then had the attorneys approach the bench, Mr. Horn wearing rumpled khaki slacks and a blue blazer, and Mr. Connelly in a dark suit.
    With the court microphone turned off, they apparently discussed various points about the motion and the possible follow-up, with occasional phrases being audible in the front row of the courtroom. The men then returned to their seats.
    “Counsel has provided a motion with some visual aids,” Justice Cahill said, “The people will have a month to respond.” She then adjourned the case until May 14.
    Mr. Horn explained on Tuesday that the visual aid referred to was a flow chart of the complex series of counts and interlocking requests for dismissal.
    On Tuesday, Mr. Connelly said Mr. Horn’s motion was for at least a partial, if not complete, dismissal of the charges, and he conceded that a partial dismissal could facilitate a settlement. He confirmed that a $100,000 fine suggested in October by the town as a settlement was still on the table.
    “I don’t think about this in terms of dollars. I think about it in terms of concepts,” Mr. Horn said. Both men sounded eager to work out a settlement, most likely before a return to court.
    In Mr. Horn’s motion, a copy of which The East Hampton Star obtained, he asks the court to dismiss multiple charges in cases where specific code violations were cited within the same week. He contends such citations violate state and town law. Yesterday, Mr. Horn elaborated on this. “There are only 12 to 16 violations that have repeated, based on the number of visits,” he said, intimating that many citations would have to be dismissed.
    Mr. Connelly noted that if Justice Cahill dismissed the multiple citations that occurred during the same week, a settlement would become more likely.
    The Surf Lodge will have a hearing in a different setting on Tuesday at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m., as Eric Bregman of Gilmartin and Bregman represents the owners of the club in an appeal to the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals. They are challenging a decision by Tom Preiato, the chief town building inspector, to deny the Surf Lodge a certificate of occupancy for an outdoor drinks station, which sits at the rear of the club, because it would constitute an expansion of the pre-existing, nonconforming status that allows the night spot to do business in a residential district.
   Mr. Bregman said yesterday that although the station has a soda gun used to make mixed drinks, and a butcher-block dry bar, it does not have permanent plumbing and could conceivably be moved elsewhere on the property. A food cart and wagons, which Mr. Preiato had also ruled were an expansion of the nonconforming use, will not be used this year, Mr. Bregman said. Mr. Preiato was reportd to be out of the country and not available for comment.