The Lobbyist: Sunset Beach at Shelter Island

The Lobbyist is a division of JBLY that specifically handles reviews of hotel lobbies and hotel bars.  If you’ve got a good suggestion (or, preferably, a bad one) for a place I should visit, please send me an email at

When your private plane can’t get you to Saint Tropez for the weekend…

If you’re one of the lucky thousands who gets to escape New York City on any given summer weekend, you might get to drive in traffic along the 27, hop on a quick ferry ride across the river, and pull into the gravel parking lot of Andre Balazs’ Sunset Beach hotel.  Part European wet dream, part ice cream parlor schmaltz, Sunset Beach is home away from home, if home is a magnum bottle of rose, a bunch of over-tanned Italians, and a garage full of Range Rovers.*


This Memorial Day weekend, Eva and I, armed with her boyfriend’s black on black on black on black on black Mercedes Benz, left my modest Greenpoint neighborhood at 9:30 a.m. and arrived in Shelter Island some multitude of hours later on account of a prattling GPS system that paid more attention to announcing our preparation to bare left or right than getting us on the right road.

Once on the ferry to Shelter Island, our cares flitted away on a breeze like a drunk bird that had forgotten how to use its wings and drowned horribly (and blissfully happy) in the river.  Fuck you, New York City!


Overpriced caftans, animal print Alaia sandals, bathing suits that can’t get wet, pink shirts, nose jobs, nice watches, white pants, white pants, more white pants.


Eva and I saddle up to the bar, waiting for her boyfriend to arrive so we can go to dinner.  With my third eye and women’s protective intuition, I sense the boys across from us about to go in for the kill.  Wait for it…

“Do you want me to take a picture of you girls?”

He has an Irish accent, which would generally make up for a whole host of shortcomings if it weren’t for the fact I’m holding a FlipCam towards Eva and filming her when he asks me this.

“I mean,” I begin, “it’s not really a camera.”

“Here, give it to me.  I’ll take a picture.”

“It shoots video,” I say again, handing it to him anyway, persistent, unresponsive monkey that he is.

He points the FlipCam towards us, doubly confused.

“Yeah, you see,” I say, reaching to take it back, “it can’t take pictures.”

This awkward exchange serves as our introduction to him and his friend, who has just returned from the bathroom.  They are amiable in a way that most men are when they are trying to get your number or get in your pants.  Unfortunately for them, their whole operation is shut down upon the arrival of Barry, Eva’s boyfriend.  I, being the third – and very single – wheel, am forced to make small talk about what airport one flies into when visiting Calgary and the wonderful hot tubs of the Banff Springs Hotel.

This is the most in-depth interaction I will have with random individuals for the rest of the weekend, unless you count being dance-raped at 2 a.m. by the DJ who will not remember me the next morning.  The remaining days will be spent watching strangers (emphasis on “strange”) from afar, as though a visitor in a zoo without bars.

Being the most removed Hampton of the Hamptons, Shelter Island seems to me to be the most kid friendly.  There are children everywhere.  Beautiful children with mothers furiously fighting the stubbornness of their DNA and ravaging effects of time.  The incongruous vision of these women aging horribly and their staggeringly gorgeous children feels almost as painful as looking at before-and-after pictures of Bridgette Bardot.

The men don’t seem to be nearly half as vain.  They proudly display graying hair on their tan, tough-as-rhino-meat chests.  Their guts protrude as though badges of gluttonous honor, evidence of years spent indulging on foie gras and after dinner cheese plates.  That being said, there were a handful of presumably taken men one would consider home-wrecking for.  Go figure.


Whatever the de facto, self-appointed DJs played on the beach (two men who looked like they missed the Jersey Shore by a few hundred miles); curatorial “Let’s just relax, shall we?” music that would certainly be Hotel Costes approved; children crying for ice cream; children crying from lack of sleep; the “Oh, my gaaawwwwwwdddd, I haven’t seen you in forever!” of friends and the “Charlie, don’t do that” of mothers.

Most interesting to me was the conversation I was eavesdropping on while Adam, my very adept masseuse, was attending to the knots on my upper back from our place on the beach.  Apparently, Chelsea Handler, Andre’s current girlfriend, was standing on the balcony above this man, in full view of the entire parking lot, stark naked.  This man had seen Andre and Chelsea arrive yesterday in his seaplane.  Gossip!  Yum.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry or Whatever: 

Disappointingly, there is no kale or birdseed on the lunch or dinner menu.  Sigh.  Brooklyn, sometimes I miss you.  There are, however, plenty of things in French that I do not understand.  (What the hell is carre?)  If there is one thing I do understand, though, it’s that the artichoke frites are goddamn delicious.  Pair these decadent greaseballs with a cold glass of their tasty rose sangria (how all sangria should be prepared from this point forward), and you’ve got yourself a perfect, well balanced, $30 snack (plus gratuity).

The Lobbyist Rating:  4/5 Kate Mosses

This place is like the ACE Hotel for rich people.**  If you’re a rich person, you’ll find it charming and casual chic.*** If you’re not a rich person, you will find Sunset Beach to be a price gouging horror of uber Euro depravity.  But life, my friend, is all about perception.  And for the sake of this review, I will rate this place as though a rich person (and not the relative poor person that I am).  Four Kates it is!






* Said with no amount of judgement.

** If I had to pick, I’d go for the ACE, which goes to great lengths to infect their locations with an enviable, eclectic aesthetic.  (Also because I’m poor.)  Unfortunately, the ACE hotel is too busy being hip in places other than the Hamptons.

*** Once a run-of-the-mill beachside motel, this place really is still, well, a roadside motel, only with bug-free beds, clean linens, a plash of orange paint, and a $500 price tag.  Tre cute!