On-site kitchen pick-up at Hero Beach

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The Hero Beach Club welcomes downtown Montauk with a wink.

Not a single person criticized Hero Beach’s plan to convert a basement room into a kitchen during a July 13 East Hampton Planning Board public hearing. Instead, many came out in favor of the Montauk resort bid.

“We really want to be able to tell our guests that they don’t have to leave the property to eat,” said hotel manager Leland Hensch.

Hero Beach, which sports the iconic smiley face flashing on its facade, is the first commercial property drivers see as they head into Montauk. Since 2017, it has been trying to provide an on-site catering service. On May 18, the planning board finally deemed the application ready for a public hearing.

In addition to the basement kitchen, Hero Beach will build a low-nitrogen sewage system on site, as well as a new second-floor deck and an expanded first-floor deck.

Susan Ryan of East Hampton said it was difficult for her to travel during the summer because of her job and that Hero Beach was a great place to take her family. She got married there “in a short space of time,” she said, with management always accommodating. Having a hotel dining option would make it even better, she said, as leaving the field with a small child can be a challenge.

Danielle Beckmann, a Montauk resident since 1981, said she’s seen ownership change over the years. “When I look at the blueprints and see everything that’s going to be fixed, for me it’s a win-win situation,” she said. The owners “spend a lot of money to improve the visuals – in the spring there are daffodils everywhere, and it’s just beautiful, and it brings a smile to everyone’s face, just like the motel’s smiley face”.

A hostess at the resort, Sejal Kukadia, said guests were asking every day if there was food on offer.

“I’m usually not on the pro-development side of the table,” Thomas Muse said, but for him the low-nitrogen sanitation system makes the project worthwhile. East Hampton Town has an underground “nitrogen bomb” that is “waiting to explode”, he said. Now the city has “an opportunity to give Hero a little, and we get a big win for groundwater protection.”

If there was a shadow on the smiling sun, it was in a letter from Tiffany Scarlato, a land-use lawyer representing the hotel. Ms Scarlato wrote: “Due to the surprisingly long review time, targeted code changes and expense involved in this proposal, the application has been scaled down significantly to involve only the construction of a kitchen to serve the customers of the hotel. . . . With respect to the appeal to the requester that it would restrict catering service to “overnight guests”, this request is not acceptable. (As of now, a covenant on the request simply states that the food will be served to “hotel guests.”)

The public comment period ended yesterday. The planning board is expected to conclude the matter with further discussion at its Wednesday meeting and will most likely take a vote at its August 10 meeting.

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