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Montauk music performers criticize crackdown on noise level

Local musician Nancy Atlas addresses the East Hampton

Local musician Nancy Atlas addresses the East Hampton Town Board on the subject of decibel levels allowed at bars and other venues in Montauk where live music is played at the meeting held at the Montauk Firehouse in Montauk on June 14, 2016. Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

Local musicians on Tuesday called on East Hampton Town Board members to reconsider the decibel levels allowed at bars and other venues in Montauk that feature live music, saying the current acceptable level is too low and is killing the music experience in the resort hamlet.

East Hampton officials began cracking down on noise and other problems associated with disruptive summertime visitors to Montauk after last year’s particularly raucous Fourth of July weekend.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that the concerns would be taken into consideration but that the pressure will remain on to keep noise at an acceptable level.

The musicians spoke during a packed town board work session Tuesday morning at the Montauk firehouse. The meeting started with an a cappella rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by band singer Nancy Atlas to make her point that the acceptable decibel levels are too low.

“I was at 96 with no band or amplification, and the current [town acceptable] level is 55,” Atlas, who lives in Montauk, said after her performance. She said the fines violators are being subject to is hitting a sour note with restaurant and bar owners.

A first offense is punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000; a second offense within 18 months is punishable by fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,500; and a third or subsequent offense within 18 months is punishable by fines from $2,500 to $10,000. All violations are also punishable by jail time not exceeding 15 days.

“How do you survive when you’re paying $1,000 [for violations]?” said Atlas, who sings at The Surf Lodge, Navy Beach and Solé East. “The environment out here is really bad, guys,” she told the board. “It has really been rough. Musicians are scrambling [to adhere to the law], bar owners are scrambling. . . . Everyone’s stressed out.”

Laraine Creegan, executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, cautioned board members that crackdowns have a “trickle-down effect,” noting that when establishments are issued a lot of citations, it could drive away patrons who might have been customers at retail and other local businesses.

But Kathy Havlik, an East Hampton Town resident who grew up in Montauk, defended the crackdown, saying some bar and restaurants and vacationers “have become bad neighbors,” adding that there’s a problem “if I can’t enjoy the town I grew up in.”

East Hampton Police Chief Michael Sarlo said the right chord has to be struck for everyone to coexist.

“We are not going out to try to stomp out any music at all in this community,” Sarlo said. “Given what happened here last year in Montauk, we have to work together . . . for the peace and good order of our community.”

Cantwell said the changes were necessary.

“Are we stricter?” he said. “Absolutely, because we think it has made a meaningful difference in the town of Montauk.”

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