East Hampton Trustees Debate Regulating Alcohol At Indian Wells

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Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett, recently seen as a daytime party destination for 20-somethings to soak up more booze than sun, was a hot topic at the East Hampton Town Trustees meeting on February 25.

Indian Wells, like all other town beaches, technically allows alcohol on the beach, according to town code, which prohibits alcohol consumption in town parks but explicitly makes an exception for beaches unless otherwise posted.

“We do enforce open alcohol [laws] in the parking lot,” said East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo, “and obviously for kids that are drinking on the beach under the age of 21.”

Similarly, said East Hampton Trustees Clerk Diane McNally, there are open container and public intoxication laws to help mitigate the risks that come along with drinking on the beach—but specific regulations further restricting the use of alcohol at Indian Wells could have wide-ranging effects, she said.

“This could definitely influence other beaches, so it’s tricky—it’s a tricky conversation to have,” Ms. McNally said.

One of the fears regarding further regulating alcohol use at Indian Wells, she added, is that it might push people who are drinking into unprotected areas away from the lifeguard stands.

“Are we going to regulate the poor behavior? Or are we going to regulate what causes the poor behavior?” Ms. McNally asked.

Since the code leaves alcohol consumption on the beach up to the town’s discretion, it is possible the town could put up signs to prohibit it, said Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, but it would have to be cleared by the town attorney.

“There’s been some preliminary discussion about Indian Wells,” said Mr. Cantwell, “but nothing’s been vetted through the town attorney’s office. It is creating a conflict, though, with people and families who use that beach and are accustomed to a certain setting, and then they’ve got these huge crowds partying … there have been complaints.”

As for other beaches in East Hampton, said Mr. Cantwell, drinking is not as big of an issue—especially in the Village of East Hampton, as its code specifically prohibits alcohol on the beach.

“Are people drinking at other beaches in East Hampton Town? Sure, but I’ve never gotten any complaints about somebody having a beer or two or a glass of wine. But in this case, it’s the size of the crowd and the amount they’re drinking, and some of the activities being associated with that. Those are disturbing.”

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