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Jul 24, 2012 6:38 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Rumba Owners Are Trying To Walk A Fine Line

Jul 25, 2012 12:37 PM

“An overflowing cesspool is a public health threat ... It’s not okay” Mr. McAllister said. “Many would argue that the town has not been vigilant about enforcing their code, and if you let Rumba run amuck, how do you ask others to comply?”

Faced with that question, and the pleas of hundreds of community members to let the restaurant continue operating as-is, Town Board members voted unanimously on July 10 authorizing the injunction only after it was amended to allow time for Mr. Hersh to come into compliance before an actual injunction was sought.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said Monday that she recognizes that the code violations at Rumba must be addressed, but she said that Mr. Hersh and his attorney, David Gilmartin, have assured her and the board that they are working to do just that.

“I concern myself that we are dealing with selective enforcement here, and it’s a slippery slope to go down,” Ms. Throne-Holst said, adding that she supports the town’s businesses and restaurants that depend on the summer season and employ local workers.

“If we can strike a balance with the owners of these establishments to make sure that they are doing what they can to be in compliance and assist them with that, I think that is the government doing the right thing,” she said. “We are dealing with an antiquated septic crisis that is both on businesses as well as homes, and do we need to do something about it? Yes, but we need to do it in a comprehensive way where we aren’t targeting individual businesses and homeowners.”

Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who brought the resolution before the Town Board earlier this month, said at the time that the town is justified in seeking an injunction against Mr. Hersh, noting that he has had two years to address some of the violations. When reached on Tuesday, Ms. Fleming stuck with her position, stating the she wants to protect the waterways.

“Sometimes our jobs are not easy, but I feel that I have a responsibility here,” she said. “We count on our shellfish and our bay waters, and so do the people who come out here year after year because the Hamptons are the Hamptons—we have to take that seriously.”

Mr. Hersh pointed out that no study has been done to support claims that his restaurant is polluting the bay, and he denied the allegations. He did confirm that his septic tank is pumped out three times a week, but he said he did that to appease his neighbors.

“The septic system at Rumba is currently being serviced more often than any of the other restaurants that we are in contract with,” wrote Emil Norsic Jr., the president of Emil Norsic and Son Sanitation Services, in a letter mailed to Mr. Hersh and dated July 11, 2012. Mr. Norsic wrote that servicing the tank so often prevents the buildup of heavy solids or sludge.

To further address the issue, Mr. Hersh said he has brought in two engineers in recent weeks to assess his current septic system and draw up plans for upgrading it, possibly in the off-season. Though it will be expensive, he hopes to carry out the work and, eventually, work with the town and reach an agreement on his restaurant’s occupancy limit. Mr. Hersh said he hopes the town will hold off on seeking an injunction this summer, giving him time to make upgrades and for the zoning board to review his application.

“It might be time that we put the infrastructure in to allow for the continued growth without hurting the environment,” Mr. Hersh said, adding that the issue of outdated septic systems is not unique and that other waterfront restaurants have similar issues. “To really cure the problem, there’s really only one solution, yet it’s very costly.”

Mr. Hersh said he has also considered moving his restaurant out of Southampton Town, possibly to Patchogue Village, out of the frustration that his neighbors and the town have caused him. He said that if he stays and is required to limit his occupancy to a total of 21 seats, with no outside seating, he will be forced to compensate for that loss in revenue by operating solely as a bar, rather than a family restaurant, and staying open much later.

“That would push out families that come here and that would push out the older people who come here,” Mr. Hersh said. “All this stuff is pulling my attention away from what I do best. I don’t want to fight it. All I want to do is run a good business and do the right thing by my guests, employees and my community.”

He shared copies of the nearly 500 emails that patrons sent to the Town Board, urging members against taking legal action and explaining that Rumba has turned a once run-down location into a successful business that has benefitted the hamlet.

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This is all a prelude to the Town blasting through their Septic Tank agenda that will cost the average homeowners thousands of dollars. When it was boarded up and ugly (look at the CPI) that's ok. Amazing... Mr. Hersh would be smart to get out of this Town...
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jul 27, 12 8:28 AM
3 members liked this comment
The reporter missed the big issue here. Rumba has a permit for less than 20 seats but regularly has overflow crowds of 200. Neighbors are being driven crazy between all the cars and the noise and the town is doing nothing to help them.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jul 27, 12 11:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
The article states he SERVES over 200 people on a busy weekend throughout the day. Not an overflow crowd of 200. What noise? There are no longer any bands playing there and the restaurant closes at 10. Will they be happier if a night club goes in there with loud music and dancing? After all they can have 100 people standing in there according to the fire code. Of course all the cars on Canoe Place Road are only going to Rumbas! Give me a break. This road is thoroughfare for many cars coming off ...more
By pcone (28), hampton bays on Jul 27, 12 12:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
The occupancy of the place is not 20 people. They are allowed to people up to their occupancy limit which they have been doing. To satisfy the town they moved their parking up the street and got a shuttle. When is enough enough? Why is the Town of Southampton against local businesses?
We have vacant storefronts and abandoned restaurants on Montauk Highway and yet we have our local government singling out and targeting a successful business that brings money into Hampton Bays. All the ...more
By Damon.Hagan (34), Hampton Bays on Jul 27, 12 12:11 PM
This was the same location - under a different owner - that had State Police dealing coke out of it back in the late 90's. I think the current use is better for the community.
By G (342), Southampton on Jul 27, 12 1:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
This place was a row boat rental place, and welding shop. How the hell did it get health dept approval for holding 200 people in a restaurant on the water?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 27, 12 2:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
Because there was little money to be made in row boat rentals and welding. C'mon, was that a rhetorical question?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jul 27, 12 3:20 PM
ETA: I love Rumba and hope that it stays open.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jul 27, 12 3:29 PM
Sounds like a double standard going on, OK for Rumba, NOT ok for all the other clubs that get to be shut down "immediately" by Fire Marshalls for overcrowding, etc. Buying time is just a ploy to make more $$$$$$ while the pollution runs wild. It sounds like there's a connection between the Town and Gilmartin, wasn't he a former Town Attorney....hummmmmm.
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Jul 27, 12 3:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps the Supervisor is motivated by the campaign donation she received from Rumbas.

As for her public declarations of it being "selective enforcement", maybe the Town Attorney needs to put a muzzle on the Supervisor. One would think that the Supervisor of the Town of Southampton would be sending code enforcement officers out to all relevant establishments to ensure compliance with Town Zoning and health code requirements.

Then again the same Town Supervisor saw no moral or ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 27, 12 9:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
A little institutional memory might go a long way in Town Hall right now. This property was the subject of a lengthy ZBA decision many years ago (probably mid to late 1990's). If I recall correctly, the seating limitations were imposed by the ZBA because of a lack of on-site parking which cannot be remedied by a shuttle bus. The health department limitations are a different matter and the fire marshall occupancy limits are irrelevant.
By Doug Penny (64), Lexington, Virginia on Jul 27, 12 5:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ever the believer in the rule of law, Mr. Penny. The Town misses you. As you can see only the faces have changed, the games remain ongoing.

The episode could be entitled "a restaurant too small to fail".
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jul 27, 12 9:28 PM
Why should offsite parking combined with a shuttle NOT be a viable remedy...unless we are simply looking to punish a business? Quite a lot of business punishing has gone on in decades past by past town boards and supervisors. Maybe that's part of the reason we have so many empty commercial properties.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 28, 12 11:57 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why is everyone beating up on David Hersh?
The violations go to the landlord who was well aware of the property limitations before renting to a young entrepreneur starting his first venture.
Every lease gives a landlord the ability to immediately terminate if there are violations of local codes. This operation exists under the tacit approval of the landlord, who no doubt provides for periodic rent "adjustments" to his 15 yr lease, and is laughing all the way to the bank.
David is caught ...more
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Jul 28, 12 7:17 AM
I am very torn about this. There are other restaurants on the bay that operate over capacity, and don't follow every rule. Why is Rumba being singled out? On the other hand, David's "policies" of not hiring locals or women above his age, makes me upset. If you want to make money here, you should employ locals. Unfortunately, this happens a lot here. I feel he has done his best to appease his neighbors, and people should have more going on their lives than to try to control other people's businesses. ...more
By Spencer (3), Hampton Bays on Jul 28, 12 7:38 AM
Where do you get your information regarding locals not being hired by David Hersh? My daughter works there and is a Hampton Bays HS graduate as well as many of the employees there are. Also, there are Mercy graduates there too. He has been employing locals for a long time, so you information regarding his hiring practices are incorrect. David has bent over backwards to appease his "neighbors" but it is one "neighbor" in particular that is causing most of Mr. Hersh's problems. I agree with the ...more
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Aug 1, 12 1:03 PM
there are certain people (at least two) who are in high positions of responsibility (elected or otherwise) in this town who reside in close proximity to this establishment, who don't belong to the same political party of ATH, who do not like caribean food/music. 2 + 2 = ???
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 28, 12 4:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh Captain Sig, thank you for posting this! I also know the one "neighbor" in a politicial position that has been causing all of Rumba's problems. I have been trying to get the word out about it and I'm glad other people are finally posting about it also :)
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Aug 1, 12 1:05 PM
Seriously, for such a Republican area-- higher-ups should really drink their own Kool Aid and overlook a few things, in support of the small business owners, who ultimately do this area a huge solid and carry the economy--by bringing in customers, employing the locals, exposing and promoting the area as a valid vacation spot, and contributing to the area in more positive ways than any small negatives.....please--make it easier for people to run a successful business by not looking for small ways ...more
By irishlad (3), Southampton on Jul 28, 12 11:02 PM
2 members liked this comment
I have only been there twice, because I prefer most meals at home. He runs a nice operation and is an asset to the community. We need more David Hershs to invest time and money to shape Hampton Bays into its potential. The Town, Mr. Hersh and the landlord must find a way to resolve all of the issues at hand without cost to the environment and neighbors. All this can be done over the long winter. Right now the right thing to do is allow this man to concentrate on his coming August business so that ...more
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Jul 29, 12 10:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
Don't fool yourself about the owners not knowing the zoning. If you drive behind Rumba there are literally 8 parking spots and no where for off site parking. The ZBA also gave the restaurant 20 or so seats in the restaurant so how would the owner ever think he can do what is going on there now? Although I think the town should work out something with the owner because he does run a good operation and does try to comply with regulations. I think the real problem in HB is the Boardy Barn there are ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 30, 12 8:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
you forgot to mention Neptunes
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Jul 30, 12 10:55 PM
Careful Chief - the BB is the Sacred Cash Cow of the PBA & GOP. Any criticism will only be met with threats & comments about what a great community place it is. You see, the GOP likes the fights, the drunks and excessive vomit all over the old KK Center. They had an anniversary party recently that went out of control and everyone got pepper-sprayed! But hey, they never over-serve right? Just this week a blotter story had a DWI that admitted drinking over 8 beers at the BB. And Hampton Bays wonders ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Aug 1, 12 1:30 PM