East End gallery owner carted off to jail for serving drinks without a license
BY DEBBIE TUMA, JOANNA MOLLOY and DAVE GOLDINER DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Monday, May 26th 2008, 4:00 AM
Gallery owner Ruth Vered is cuffed and put into an East Hampton police car.
It was chaos in the Hamptons as cops crashed an A-list Memorial Day weekend gala, dragging the owner of a tony art gallery to jail for serving drinks without a license.
Longtime gallery owner and East Hampton fixture Ruth Vered was hauled off in handcuffs after she refused to stop serving drinks Saturday evening - and then balked at cops' orders to follow them.
"People were screaming, 'Leave her alone,'" Vered told the Daily News Sunday. "It's disgraceful."
She dismissed the East End cops as big-muscled toughs with too much time on their hands.
"I told them I've been doing this since before they were born," fumed Vered, 67. "They have some nerve."
She was taken away from the wine-and-cheese shindig in front of her granddaughter and the 200 elbow-rubbing fashionistas and socialites gathered at Vered Gallery for the opening of an exhibit by celebrity photographer Steven Klein.
East Hampton Mayor Paul Rickenbach said cops were just enforcing state alcohol rules.
"It's standard operating procedure for the police," Rickenbach said. "It's not something that's new and out of the blue at all."
The beach town brouhaha began as bold-face names like leggy blond Kelly Killoren Bensimon and Kelly Klein, Calvin Klein's ex-wife, sipped white wine and cocktails while they scanned the sexy shots.
The exhibit includes photos of Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. There were also Polaroids of gay men in various sexual poses.
Just before 8 p.m., two police officers arrived and told Vered to stop serving drinks. When she refused, they told her she would have to come with them to the police station.
"I said I'm not going anywhere," said Vered, who recalled telling them she would only discuss the issue with a higher-ranking police official.
"There were about eight of them with big muscles."
Moments later, up to nine police cars and more than a dozen officers descended on the gallery and arrested Vered. Then they carted out crates of fancy Champagne, wine and Grey Goose vodka.
Vered was identified by cops as Ruth Kalb, but she told The News she prefers using only a single name, Vered.
She blasted the small-town cops for having too little work.
"They really have nothing to do so they pick on me - it's harassment," she said. "You'd think someone was murdered."
Gallery customers said the police response was totally out of proportion to any problem caused by the reception.
"There were about nine cops there for one woman," said Lou Contino of Huntington, L.I. "It seemed like a gross overreaction."
Vered was fingerprinted, photographed and handcuffed to a bench for more than two hours at the East Hampton Village police station before being given a summons for serving liquor without a license. She has a June 25 court date.
Cops didn't return calls for comment.
But the mayor insisted they did everything by the book.
"It's unfortunate the atmosphere was the way it was, but the police operated in a professional manner," Rickenbach said.
Cops also shut down a reception at the neighboring Walk Tall Gallery.
Witnesses said cops confiscated bottles of wine as a woman who worked at Walk Tall began to shake and cry in fear when she was handed a summons.
"It was like a drug bust," said Wendy Wachtel, owner of Walk Tall.
Artsy types said it's going to be a long hot summer in the Hamptons if the cops decide to crack the whip on wine-and-cheese parties.
"This is a dog-and-pony show," said Jim Hayden of the East Hampton Artist Alliance. "It's outrageous."