Known to insiders as The End of the World, Montauk, which is the last stop on Long Island’s South Fork before the Atlantic Ocean leads to Europe and beyond, was once the less popular stepchild of the Hamptons. Eschewing the chic sophistication of East H ampton, Bridgehampton and Southampton, the jewels in a crown that includes Water Mill, Amagansett, Sagaponack, Sag Harbor, Westhampton and Quogue, the long ride to Montauk from the wind mill in Easthampton was once only traversed by hardcore beach types and true locals. Even Hampton Bays, which has been endearingly referred to as “the armpit of the Hamptons” by a few longtime residents of the town that connects Southampton and Westhampton, was once more popular with the summer crowds than the fishing village at the tip of the fork. Beginning about eight years ago, a “new Montauk” scene sprang up, which is currently a full blown mash-up of South Beach meets Spring Break meets the Hamptons glazed with West Coast bohemian surfer chic. Most people would agree that the paradigm shift began with the opening of the hugely popular Surf Lodge, the hotel, restaurant and nightclub on Edgemere Street that has been ground zero for clubbing crowds since it opened in 2007.
The massive popularity of the Surf Lodge is due in large part to its authentic beach town vibe and location on Fort Pond Lake, the body of water between Fort Pond Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The venue’s layout is perfect for summer partiers who take full advantage of the large expanse of outdoor seating and the indoor dining room that looks out onto the pond. Live bands perform on the deck in the evenings, and an outdoor movie screen projects films as guests lounge about on comfortable chairs and sofas that are illumined in the evening by small lights strung about like a beach resort in Sardinia. The ambiance is full on casual chic, with rattan, white wash, artwork and fresh flowers all mixing together with the unstudied cool that can only come from the mind of a skilled stylist. As it happens, Surf Lodge has a full time Creative Director, and she brings a gorgeous DJ husband to the table to round it all out. Sasha and Oliver Benz were on hand this past Sunday night to mix with guests and lend their aura to the sultry night.
Sunday night marked the second night that Surf Lodge was operating under the edict of the East Hampton Town no-parking restriction along Edgemere Street that went into effect on August 22nd. Since opening its doors, the thoroughfare has been the de facto parking lot for the overflow of cars that would pile up at night as guests for the Surf Lodge would begin arriving at the club after a day spent reclining on the beach, surfing, shopping or just lounging by the pool. Those who arrived too late were relegated to a long walk from the nether regions of any available spot far away from the front door. Pedestrians walking in the dark along the line of parked cars became a regular scene for drivers, and the congestion became a complaint for year round residents and longtime locals. Add to that the noise levels from the live bands that perform at Surf Lodge often into the night, and the issue became an inevitable problem for the local police and the town.
John Tocco, a retired businessman who has owned a house three minutes up the road from the Surf Lodge for the past twenty years was at the venue on Sunday night with a young blonde from Montana who was spending her first summer in Montauk. They lounged on the outdoor sofas sipping cocktails and danced for a bit in the packed main room to loud tunes that were blasted by the DJ du jour. Talking about the parking ban, Tocco stated that he thought it would hurt business for the Surf Lodge, remarking that last year on a Sunday night it was impossible to even move in the jammed club. Tocco said that he often hears the music from the live bands at his house on Fort Pond Bay, but also remarked that he loves the noise and the sound of revelry, and says that it is good for the economy of the town of Montauk to have so many enthusiastic patrons at a place like Surf Lodge. He is one longtime resident who wants to see Surf Lodge continue for a long time and attributes Montauk’s hot appeal to the type of trendy young crowds that frequent the venue.
Surf Lodge had security posted at the entrance on Sunday night, in compliance with the new ban, and they were adamant that no one pull up to drop off guests. Edgemere Street was clear of parked cars, and what cars could fit were all jammed together on a grassy spot up the road. Taxis were in abundance, and with Uber still on ban in East Hampton and Montauk, cab drivers were busy non-stop all night. In an interview published on August 19th in The East Hampton Press, Surf Lodge owner Jayma Cardoso said that she is on board with the new parking restrictions, and applauds the safer conditions the ban should encourage. She also hopes that patrons will bike to the club. She and her team are working on alternatives such as shuttle service and possibly renting space in local commercial parking lots. Valet parking has not been ruled out.
Despite Tocco’s assertion that the crowd on Sunday night was thinner than last year, due, he reckoned, to the ban, the attendance was hearty, lively and full on bombastic, with the dance floor so tight there was no way to navigate the floor with a drink intact. People spilled out of the venue onto the deck, with the overflow filing onto the sandy ground that rings the restaurant. The parking lot was also a spot for impromptu partying, and the DJ, actress, producer and promotor Angelica Morrow was a welcoming presence to all who arrived, making sure everyone was having a good time and not wanting for a drink whether it was a brew or just a cold water on the hot August night. Friday marks the beginning of the last weekend before Labor Day, and if last weekend is any indicator, Surf Lodge’s scene won’t be diminished too much by the parking ban. There is an entire winter to work out the kinks of the restriction.
The Surf Lodge
183 Edgemere St
Montauk, NY 11954