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Sep 9, 2009 12:29 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Neptune Beach Club again finds itself at the center of controversy

Sep 9, 2009 12:29 PM

On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon at Neptune Beach Club in Hampton Bays, while shirtless and wearing sunglasses that featured the “Sesame Street” character Elmo, Mike Abruzese described his visit to the Dune Road beach club as a trip down memory lane.

“We used to party here back in the day,” said Mr. Abruzese, who used to live in Yonkers. “I flew in from Texas for this.”

Last month, he and his group of friends, now all in their mid-30s, rented a party bus and had a reunion at the beach club, which also serves as The Drift Inn nightclub on Saturday nights. He noted that he and his friends were all being responsible that afternoon by not getting behind the wheel.

“We drink, we don’t drive,” Mr. Abruzese said—though he admitted that, in their younger days, he and his friends often “drove when they shouldn’t have.”

Like Mr. Abruzese, many of those interviewed that afternoon at the beach bar—the last of the oceanfront nightclubs in the municipality—said they were not from Southampton Town. In fact, most said they travel from far away as Staten Island and Nassau County to visit the establishment and enjoy some cocktails.

As a place that is infamous for drawing huge crowds of people, the club has been a lightning rod for negative attention over the past few years—a trend that continued this summer and even prompted one Southampton Town Board member to declare that she wants to see the business shuttered.

Troubling Pattern

Over Memorial Day weekend, 19 people were arrested inside Neptune Beach Club—including two bouncers who Southampton Town Police said were confiscating drugs at the door and then reselling them to other patrons inside the club. Detectives said they also routinely make drug and assault arrests in the parking lot of the establishment.

Additionally, police said a number of people have been pulled over—some within a few hundred feet of the beach bar—and charged with DWI after spending an afternoon or night partying at the establishment.

On Labor Day, Southampton Town Police arrested two club patrons—Jose Vasquez, 22, of Jackson Heights and John Velasquez, 26, of Elmont—after authorities said they sold ketamine to undercover officers inside the club. Police said Neptune employees tried to warn customers about the presence of undercover officers by making an announcement on the club’s loudspeakers on Monday.

“I would say that Neptune’s on a Saturday is one of the most highly policed areas,” said Southampton Town Police Captain Anthony Tenaglia during an interview in June, following the nearly two dozen arrests at the establishment over Memorial Day weekend.

Those events prompted Southampton Town Board member Sally Pope to proclaim that she would like to close the beach club—a statement that she now acknowledges would be next to impossible, as the town simply does not have enough money to buy the oceanfront property. The land is estimated to be worth between $4 million and $5 million.

As a result, Town Board members are now considering a proposal that, if adopted, would require that the owners of local nightclubs, as well as other “trouble spots” in the municipality, pay a special fee to offset the cost of additional police presence.

In June, Town Board member Anna Throne-Holst, who is making a run for town supervisor in November, floated a proposal that seeks to charge certain businesses, such as the Neptune Beach Club and the Boardy Barn, also located in Hampton Bays, to pay a fee to help offset the cost of the additional officers who actively monitor the establishments. The proposal would mirror a current town policy that is followed whenever someone seeks a special event permit from the municipality, requiring that the town be reimbursed for the related police presence.

Currently, all town taxpayers are footing the bill for the extra police patrols and undercover narcotics sting operations. Ms. Throne-Holst’s proposal, which has not been formally introduced to the Town Board, would require that certain businesses pay extra for the police presence.

It is still not clear, however, how the town would determine the amount that each business would pay. Another major sticking point is that no one has been able to say, with any certainty, how much the extra patrols are costing the town. Capt. Tenaglia and Lieutenant Robert Pearce said they could not speculate how much it costs to keep close tabs on activities at Neptune Beach Club.

Capt. Tenaglia did note that three years ago, an officer was injured at the club and placed on disability. The injury ended up costing the town about $300,000. That officer, whom Capt. Tenaglia declined to name, had to retire from the force.

He added that the police department usually sends about seven or eight officers and two supervisors to patrol the area around the Dune Road beach club every weekend.

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By highhatsize (3731), East Quogue on Sep 10, 09 8:59 PM
The cost of operations of the Southampton Town Police is exacerbated by an inefficient patroling strategy obssessed with booking DUIs. If patrons are leaving Club Neptune drunk, station a patrol car across from the parking lot exit. Few drunks will try to run the gauntlet. Most will call a cab.

Stop undercover sting operations at The Neptune Beach Club whose purpose is but to entrap people buying illegal drugs for their own use. Busting fry this small isn't worth the cost.

If ...more
By highhatsize (3731), East Quogue on Sep 10, 09 10:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
Make them an offer for the land. 4-5 million is cheap in the grand scheme of things.

how long can we let this up island and out of state riff raff ruin the beautiful beaches and hamlet of HB?

By C Law (326), Water Mill on Sep 11, 09 5:23 AM
There are plenty of clubs in Southampton Town, why does Neptunes get all this special attention every week. Crimes occur at all the clubs.
Theres a few ranking officers that have a personal issue with the club and arrange for an entire squad to be stationed at the club during business hours. Its absolutly absurd that they have uncover officers in the club every week. Everyone in the PD complains that there are not enough officers to cover the Town and that they are stretched too thin. How about ...more
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Sep 11, 09 12:06 PM
$5 million to buy a club that brings in how much in property and sales tax revenue annually? As for offsetting the cost of patrol officers - the fact that suffolk police officers are some of the highest paid in the country should not go unnoticed in a time of budget shortfalls. With the STPD salaries partially covered by nightclubs will our taxes go down, or will it just lead to allowing more police to work unnecessary overtime hours?
By OceanLove (4), Q on Sep 11, 09 1:08 PM
I'd like to know how places like this are able to keep their liquor license with all this criminal activity going on. Take away their liquor license and the business will be forced to close.
By Walt (274), Southampton on Sep 12, 09 1:04 AM
This place as everyone knows is in no way an asset to the community. It's a parasitical business and a crime magnet that has drained tax dollars for years.The majority of the employees and most of the customers don't reside any where near here.. .It's time the town levied a substantial six figure "nuisance tax" on Neptune and sent the IRS after the various (silent) owners.......
By pmofo (37), East Quogue on Sep 14, 09 2:18 PM
Depends on your point of view.

If you are older, a weekender, and own one of those big houses, Neptune's has no value to you.

If you are younger, it provides an alternative to go out. If you are a small business owner, it probably attracts more dollars into the area.
By Phillip1 (3), Hampton Bays on Sep 25, 09 12:08 PM
If the situation was as bad as the SHPD made it out to be the State Liquor Authority would have pulled the licenese. T
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Sep 17, 09 2:43 PM
Why pick on Neptune Beach Club when the same shinanigans are allowed to happen at the Boardy Barn on a Sunday afternoon and the customers of THAT establishiment are a scare and a nuiscance to local women doing their weekly grocery shopping? Oh I see...Neptune doesn't slip as much under the table as Boardy Barn.
By R Topping (6), Hudson Falls on Sep 19, 09 9:23 AM
Seems like a big waste of police resources and taxpayers money to target Neptune's with so much police resources. The same things that happen at Neptune's happen at bars all over Southampton.

Put spot checks outside any bar and you will get the same results.
By Phillip1 (3), Hampton Bays on Sep 25, 09 12:05 PM