It wouldn't be summer on Long Island's East End without the Hamptons nightlife scene dominating the news and blogs with celebrity sightings and tales of expensive partying. A few weeks into the season, it's already clear where the hot spots are. Here's the scoop on what's happening at some of the more popular places.
For celebrity sightings
The season started on a high note with boldface names such as Zach Braff ("Scrubs") and Chris Booker (radio DJ / former MTV VJ) mingling at the bar on Memorial Day weekend. Since then, dozens of models and other pretty people have descended on weekend nights at this exclusive lounge. Not currently appearing in a TV show or making a movie? You'll probably need to buy bottle service to cross the velvet ropes. With the highest-priced item being a $40,000 bottle of Brut Nebuchadnezzar, you should be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars.
Never mind that it's a luxe club sponsored by a deodorant brand, AXE drew plenty of celebs last summer and is back for its second season with a redesigned interior. Among those already spotted: Julio Iglesias Jr., Manhattan socialite Tinsley Mortimer, Kelly Bensimon ("Real Housewives of New York City") and Bryan Greenberg ("One Tree Hill"). And unlike most other Hamptons clubs, if you arrive at a quieter moment (and not in a guys-only group), you can actually make it in by paying a $40 cover without having to foot the tab for a table.
If you want to dance
A rare Long Island performance by the well-known music producer and DJ Paul Oakenfold caused a stir over Memorial Day weekend, with patrons dancing until the wee hours. Guests should expect to pay at least $2,000 for liquor to score a table at this exclusive and intimate space - celebrity DJs are expected almost every Saturday this summer.
For the jet-setters
It's been called Tavern, Stereo by the Shore, LaPlaya and then Tavern again - but the space has always been known for its late-night parties that are accessible to the masses. The venue's new owners revamped the interior with a large wooden bar, couches, chandeliers and tables (which also serve as dance spaces). The once-basic outdoor deck has been transformed into a small grassy courtyard with daybeds and lanterns. The crowd tends to be international - and revelers seem smitten with pop remixes and upbeat dance hits. Reservations take a $20 cover charge on non-holiday weekends; without reservations, it's $30.
This marina, hotel and restaurant was already a lovely destination on its own, but this year its playing host to the poolside "Day & Night" party that became so popular last year at the Capri Hotel in Southampton. Promoters fly and yacht in their best guests from the city who splurge on expensive bottle service for the noon to 6 p.m. event. Patrons can take a seafood-heavy brunch, then get rowdy on the slim deck that turns into an impromptu dance floor.
By day, The Boathouse in East Hampton is a chic place for seafood, land-based entrees and small plates - but after dark, the space turns lounge. On Friday nights, a DJ spins all sorts of dance and popular hits for the laid-back crowd. As with many East End spots, the best way in is to buy a table - bottles range from $450 to $3,200.
Way, way out east, this smart shacklike restaurant by Fort Pond Bay hosts live reggae, blues and ska music on Saturday nights. Bottle service? Forget it - this is attitude-free Montauk we're talking about, so everyone is encouraged to sit outside at the picnic tables or gather Adirondack chairs around tree stumps, which serve as makeshift tables, for cocktails such as the "Navy Grog" ($12, dark and light rum, grapefruit, orange, pineapple) and the "Port Royale" ($12, Bacardi Limon, St. Germain, dry vermouth).
Not too far away, Surf Lodge remains the epitome of summer shoreside perfection. There's no cover, no dress code and the space is open every day but Tuesday. DJs spin funky grooves as patrons fan out over the deck and around the fire pit. Surfer movies run on the big two-sided movie screen inside surrounded by couches. It's absolutely worth the drive.
Good for a drink
Perfectly relaxed and pleasant, Race Lane has a courtyard with a bar, plus an indoor space for dining and drinks that's kept cozy on chilly evenings with a wood-burning fireplace. Guests can sit by the fire on couches with cocktails such as the "Race Lane Shandy" ($9, Pilsner, St. Germain, club soda) or the "Torquay" ($14, gin, muddled cucumber and lemon served in a Prosecco float). Live music is in the works, and the space will remain open year-round.
Nestled in the small stretch of stores that dot Montauk Highway between East Hampton and Amagansett, Turtle Crossing has a nice Friday happy hour from 6 to 8 p.m. with live music and $6 wines and frozen drinks.