The Sold-Out, “Completely Chilled-Out” Hamptons Summer

·5 min read
Photo credit: Michael Stillwell - Getty Images
Photo credit: Michael Stillwell - Getty Images

Aside from the White House and the TikTok Hype House, few places drew more ire last summer than the Hamptons. In the midst of a pandemic, some vacationers on the storied far end of Long Island were accused of acting as though COVID-19 never existed, attending parties and, notably, Safe & Sound: an ironically named, packed-to-the gills Chainsmokers concert that was later investigated by New York’s health commissioner. As the seasons changed and vaccines became available, the Hamptons-focused critiques and lampooning subsided. But, now that shots are in arms, the vaccinated can roam more freely, and Memorial Day Weekend is already behind us, a question once again looms: What will happen to the Hamptons now?

According to new CDC recommendations, vaccinated individuals “can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart,” and all travel quarantines within the United States have been lifted for the fully immunized. Aside from the renewed social interactions and visits to favorite restaurants, Americans can travel again, and do so more safely than they have in the past eighteen months.

Which brings us back to the Hamptons, a destination that could be set to have its busiest summer ever. People want to socialize, eat out, and dance, and they (understandably) want to do all these once-forbidden activities on the beach.

“From a metric standpoint, pace is far ahead of anything we've ever seen,” says George Filopoulos, the owner of Gurney’s Resorts, which boasts a recently renovated, popular location in Montauk. “Properties like ours are going to be busier than they've ever been, and bookings will have already happened at a faster clip than they ever have.”

Photo credit: Courtesy Gurney's Montauk
Photo credit: Courtesy Gurney's Montauk

Across the board, hotels, restaurants, and event planners are experiencing an onslaught of reservations, far outpacing even summer 2019. With resorts, guests tend to be staying longer, making a full week or more of these sojourns, according to both Filopoulos and Shivani Vora, director of The Roundtree hotel in the South Fork hamlet of Amagansett. Weddings and events, many of which were postponed or cancelled last summer, are also back, albeit still modified.

Though, while density is up, the Hamptons won’t be exactly the same as they were in the before times. Some locations are still requiring masks, the population is skewing older as rents trend higher (think more families, fewer twenty-something share houses), and the packed clubs aren’t exactly back yet. As Larry Siedlick, Chief Experience Officer of the once party-friendly Montauk Beach House notes, the hotel is trying to “not do anything that attracts the crowds” and is aiming for a “completely chilled-out vibe.”

Photo credit: Courtesy StayMarquis
Photo credit: Courtesy StayMarquis

In fact, the pandemic changed how some Hamptons mainstays are thinking about hospitality altogether. The Surf Lodge, once home to a packed nightlife atmosphere and glittering celebrity crowd, had to operate on a limited basis last summer. Now, as the Montauk hotspot begins the 2021 summer season, Jayma Cardoso, founder and creative director of The Surf Lodge, speaks about a shift in objective.

“I want to focus especially on wellness this summer including, in particular, mental health,” Cardoso says. “We are at a moment where mental health awareness is becoming top-of-mind for our society and we think there is a great opportunity to improve the lives of many people if we can seize this moment.”

The Surf Lodge is bringing mental health experts and speakers to the hotel to “increase awareness around these issues,” alongside offering physical wellness sessions (run by the likes of model Nina Agdal and Lisa Rinna’s favorite workout instructor, Isaac Boots) and meditation sessions. Gurney's, too, is bringing fitness to the resort, offering complimentary classes for guests with a host of popular instructors. “Self-care” and “mental wellbeing” do seem to be the buzzwords of the Hamptons 2021 summer, marking a departure from the typical raucous, partying energy of the pre-COVID era.

Photo credit: Courtesy Fredrika Stjarne for Shou Sugi Ban House
Photo credit: Courtesy Fredrika Stjarne for Shou Sugi Ban House

At Shou Sugi Ban House in Water Mill, bookings for spa treatments, meditation sessions, and “healing offerings” have “skyrocketed,” according to Amy Cherry-Abitbol, the resort's founder and CEO. Now known for its wellness retreats and luxe spa, the hotel opened in 2019 and, despite the pandemic, visitors have flocked to the resort as a refuge, a pattern that is only increasing this summer. Cherry-Abitbol noted an increased interest in Shou Sugi Ban’s “healing arts,” which include hypnosis, sound healing, and shamanic work with the shamans on the hotel staff. She credits the time at home with both the greater emphasis on self-care and the normalization of these sorts of activities.

“It's less outside of the box,” Cherry-Abitbol says. “I think people are much more familiar with [wellness practices] now and feel comfortable with it—people from all psychographics and demographics are open to it.”

Alongside this wellness focus comes a few other changes. Namely, while the pandemic is not as dire as it once was, it is still ongoing. There is some discrepancy among the hotels as far as mask mandates and vaccinations go. Shou Sugi Ban House is maintaining its masking requirements, while Gurney’s is removing its mandate for guests. However, it seems that most resorts, restaurants, and shops are relying on the honor system to enforce these regulations.

Photo credit: Courtesy Hamptons Aristocrat
Photo credit: Courtesy Hamptons Aristocrat

Given vaccine discrepancies and lingering pandemic precautions, events are shifting, as well. While naturally, it wouldn’t be a Hamptons summer without parties, they are skewing smaller yet more frequent. Lexi Ritsch and Louisa Young, the co-founders of Hamptons Aristocrat, an event business based in Westhampton Beach, are already close to selling out their services every weekend through August. However, their clients are still hosting their events outside and groups under 15 people are the most common.

But, in true Hamptons fashion, just because the parties are smaller does not mean they are any less luxe. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Given all of the lost birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, and general hangouts, Ritsch notices her clients are “making up for lost time.” They’re returning to society with Tuscan pizza ovens, private chef services, jazzed up beach bonfires, and all the possible accoutrements.

“[The parties are] a lot of those missed-out-on occasions and [the clients are] wanting to really make them special, so lots of different upgrades,” Ritsch says. “Lots of caviar.”

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