There wasn’t always a Surf Lodge in Montauk. In fact, when it opened Memorial Day weekend in 2007, featuring Ziggy Marley, it caused quite a stir. I was living in Montauk in 2007 and watched the place get redesigned. Rumors were all over town about the amount of money being spent by big NYC nightclub owners spending millions and buying into Montauk’s night scene.
I was actually assigned by then Montauk Pioneer Editor-in-chief David Rattiner, to “check it out, find out what it is going to be.” At that time who knew? Before going there, I spoke with then Gurney’s CEO Paul Monte, who ran the “Lakeside Inn,” at the Surf Lodge location for years. He said he really didn’t know what it was going to be.
It opened on Memorial Day weekend in 2007 and all Montauk had to go take a peek. Most did not like what they saw. It was change. Later that month I attended a “Concerned Citizens of Montauk,” gathering in which the owner of a local Italian restaurant actually said, “The Surf Lodge is taking 300 settings from us all every Saturday night! Something has to be done.” Thus started the local EH Town guidance via enforcement of the occupancy.
The Surf Lodge’s very first season the Fire Marshall was sent to close down the Surf Lodge for “over occupancy”. I was proud of my published photo of the then Fire Marshall and the Surf Lodge ownership that night. Everyone was standing at the front doors as the Surf Lodge was closed for over occupancy. It was civil, except for the disappointed folks denied entrance.
Then the Montauk locals went wild about the parking up and down Edgemere which was overwhelming. Everyone on the east end came to take a peep. I made it into the Surf Lodge on the next evening of opening Memorial weekend, a Sunday night.
That Sunday night, Montauk legend Carl Darenburg, whose family still to this day owns the Montauk Marine Basin, said to me, “Come on let’s go take a look.” We walked a short distance from a place then called the “Harbor Inn,” where we attending “Big Rich,” Karaoke. Carl was literally dancing with the crowd in the center of the indoor bar less than one minute after we entered. It was loud, but I remember him saying, “This place is great!”
Not everyone in Montauk agreed with Carl. Wonderful Lola Snow, who owned Lola’s Tattoos said, “The Surf Lodge is ruining Montauk.” That phrase was the mantra of the locals. Through the years, even while hosting Montauk Chamber of Commerce gatherings, Surf Lodge owner Jayma Cardoso has had some tough battles. One I interviewed her for was for the “live music,” crisis.
In an interview with me she said, “The State Liquor Authority has given us notice that we, as a restaurant, are no longer allowed to have live music performances with the current permitting. For the past nine years (as long as the Surf Lodge has been open) we’ve been allowed to have live bands perform, so this was unexpected news. Once this happened, we started the process of filing so that we would have the necessary license.”
Eventually the correct permits were attained and the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and of course the Summer weekly Wednesday nights with the “Nancy Atlas Project,” have all played there to adoring crowds.
Now there are shuttles to alleviate the parking issues, security to keep track of occupancy along with EH Town noise regulations and curfews. Then in 2020 came the Covid-19 nightmare. Now thankfully the Surf Lodge is up and safely running for 2022. What once was change is now establishment.
Over the years the national press loves to mention worldwide celebrities who frequent or just visit the Surf Lodge. Folks from Leonardo DiCaprio to Justin Bieber and his wife Hailey Baldwin Bieber.
On a most personal level I took the woman who is now my wife there back in 2009. I believe it was the first time we ever danced together. It was quite an experience. She is a former belly dancer champion. It was a great night and even better marriage.