East Hampton Town officials will reconsider proposed changes to the way the town issues music permits after musicians and their supporters came out in force last week, decrying the new law as a crackdown on live music.
Music supporters speaking at a Thursday public hearing described live music as integral to the character of East Hampton, especially for venues like the Stephen Talkhouse, which has drawn rock superstars like Jon Bon Jovi and Billy Joel, and many Montauk establishments. Speakers said they came out at the urging of noted local singer-songwriter Nancy Atlas who delivered passionate pleas against the legislation on Facebook. She also attended the meeting.
The law would require establishments to apply for a music permit every year and would give the town clerk broader criteria to suspend, deny or revoke a permit. The town board would set the permit fee. Permits currently do not expire and are free.
None of about 35 speakers were in the favor of the law as written.
“You are going to take away access to national bands from local people and hurt local businesses,” said musician Lynn Blumenfeld, who described the bill as anti-Montauk. “That seems really unreasonable to me.”
The law would also allow the town to revoke a permit if the establishment is convicted of two or more code violations within three years — a provision music supporters said is too restrictive — and create a committee to review such decisions.
Many businesses already have past zoning convictions and those that don’t could easily fall out of compliance under the town’s code, said Deborah Choron, an attorney with East Hampton-based Matthews, Kirst and Cooley.
“The town clerk could cherry-pick which businesses get music permits and which businesses don’t,” she said.
Music supporters also took issue with the town’s current 85 decibel noise level limit as too low, with some noting that gas-powered landscaping equipment can legally surpass that limit.
“It turns out that a decibel reading from a leaf blower is 110, a power drill or a handsaw have decibels levels of 120, and my neighbors are using those things all day long,” said Blumenfeld, who performs across the South Fork as Lynn Blue.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who is himself a performing musician, stressed the town was not looking to threaten the livelihood of performing artists or business owners.
Town board members, who did not vote on the measure, said they would reconsider the law and attempt to accommodate the music community while holding problem venues accountable.
“We're going to do that, I just want to reassure everybody,” Van Scoyoc said.