East Hampton Town Board members want owners and operators of Montauk bars and nightclubs to use mechanical devices to count their patrons as part of a crackdown on overcrowding tied to the summer visitor party scene.
An Aug. 20 date was set for a 6:30 public hearing on the matter during a board work session Tuesday at Town Hall.
Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a phone interview after the meeting that fire code enforcement officials will still keep tabs on the occupancy figures, but he said the owners and operators need to be personally accountable for any overcrowding.
Cantwell said that going beyond the occupancy limit is a fire hazard and that the proposed addition to the existing fire code is long overdue.
"They should have been doing this to begin with to ensure they don't overcrowd under the fire code," Cantwell said. "They are responsible for maintaining their own count of occupancy. Some are not doing that and we want to make it clear that they are all responsible."
A local crackdown on businesses that attract a young, rowdy summer party crowd was launched following this year's particularly raucous Fourth of July weekend. More than a dozen arrests were made and numerous violation summonses and traffic tickets were issued.
This past weekend alone, 85 town code summonses were issued along with 25 vehicle and traffic tickets and 36 parking tickets. The alleged offenses included possession of open containers of alcohol, public urination, littering and violations of beach-fire regulations.
Tuesday's meeting was one of a continuing series of gatherings held since the holiday weekend that stem from residents' and business owners' demands that officials do something to restore peace and order in Montauk on Friday and Saturday nights.
More related laws and amendments are planned, but during Tuesday's meeting, Cantwell expressed new concerns about possible budget constraints.
The supervisor said officials in the state comptroller's office have announced that the base tax levy cap applied for local governments for 2016 will be tightened to "significantly less than 2 percent." He said estimates are that the levy could be 35 percent lower than last year for the Town of East Hampton.
"At a time when our residents are looking for significant increases in our enforcement of local laws and more police and code enforcement staff to address quality-of-life issues in hamlets like Montauk and Springs, we are being told by the state that in order to do so, you may have to pierce the levy cap that is half what it was originally intended to be when the law was passed," Cantwell said.