By Dan Hust
BETHEL It’s already being called “Yasgur’s Pharm.”
Phish won’t even be playing at Max Yasgur’s former farmstead in Bethel, but come this Memorial Day weekend, it may be as lively a site as Phish’s venue, Bethel Woods, just down the road.
Property owners Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson, famous for hosting controversial Woodstock-themed “reunions,” are advertising a weekend of fun, food and music May 28-30, coinciding with Phish’s three concerts at Bethel Woods.
They’ve drawn a lot of attention from those looking for a place to stay and those just looking for a place to party.
They’ve also drawn the attention of the Town of Bethel, which just weeks after granting them five temporary camping permits is charging them a $25,000 fine for violating a consent order banning events at the farm without prior town permits.
“Based upon several web postings, it appears that you will be providing to the public live musical entertainment, a drum circle, vendors, and room for 1,300 cars and 5,000 people,” Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm wrote to the couple on Thursday, with the town board’s blessing. “These proposed activities place you in violation of the camping permits issued to you, the 1997 injunction, and the May 7, 2007 Consent Order, all of which prohibit such activities.”
The consent order specifically allows the town to levy the $25,000 fine against the couple, payable within 10 days, unless Howard and Abramson appeal for a hearing in front of a judge.
The duo had not provided comment at press time yesterday, but Sturm said he had yet to be informed of any court action.
By his calculation, the couple have until May 23 or 24 to pay or respond, after which the town will decide whether to pursue the matter further in court and/or by putting a lien on the couple’s property.
“We are certain they violated the consent order,” Sturm charged. “It’s a legal matter. We had no choice.”
The move by the town has ignited anger by fans who were planning to enjoy not just camping but concerts and community at Howard and Abramson’s home property.
Some indicated they still plan to come, while others pleaded with Sturm to reconsider, and still others vowed never to return to Bethel if the town cracks down on Howard and Abramson.
Sturm said yesterday that camping will continue to be permitted up to 25 campsites with no more than 10 people apiece (though he added the town doesn’t plan to monitor compliance unless complaints are made).
“We did not mention nor request cancellation of camping,” Sturm pointed out.
In fact, he added, “the Town of Bethel is not requiring the cancellation of anything.”
That includes the planned events on Howard and Abramson’s land. Sturm said such matters are up to the couple or a judge, if the town decides to take legal action.
So it would seem at this point that all 5,000 revelers or however many end up coming are still welcome.