Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
The fear-mongering has got to end. The beer and wine proposal is so tame it’s embarrassing. It’s all there in black and white. There’s no reasonable way it can be construed as leading to bars, "bar hopping," etc. If you worship at the altar of "all change is bad," the mythical "slippery slope" takes on pseudo-religious proportions.
So where’s all the unchecked development that was supposed to result from the town sewer? Likewise, how much has the quality of your life changed since the Barnes Road blinker became a four-way stop? These were also deemed "slippery slope" blights on our community. Going "damp" would have less effect than these. I can appreciate someone not wanting B&W because they don’t "feel" like it. But don’t inflate fears and don’t insult us in the business community with "...for the benefit of a few restaurateurs, some of whom close in the winter and travel."
Really. I own and run a restaurant in town, and "shazam," I’m banging nails this time of year. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see another Vineyard Haven restaurant owner banging nails on the same site. There’s your reality check.
Obviously, the only thing that hasn’t changed in 10 years is the lack of empathy for those in business. Okay, so "you’ve got yours." You really believe you’re fighting the good fight against this, our latest menace, a la "slippery slope" (probably for the children). Keeping the business community in the back of the proverbial bus, to languish, doesn’t bother you. Then, let’s be honest about what we’re becoming. "Welcome to Vineyard Haven, now a second-home marketplace and a semi-retirement community. No nothing, none of the time. Pick up T-shirt when exiting no fun zone." A beer and wine mantra could be, "that’s one small step for business, ...that’s one giant leap for common sense." Naysayers mantra: "Don’t’ confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up."
No change is done or undone without consensus. We might have a wind farm offshore some day, but let "30 seat" restaurants serve B&W with meals... hmmm. Change bad, radical concept, let’s study impact with another regurgitation committee. In practice, B&W would go practically unnoticed - an unequivocal "hiccup in history." Vote yes for common sense. Unless, of course, you fear this, no Barnes light, and the town sewer will drag us pell-mell into casino gambling.
Businesses need help
To the Editor:
I moved to the Vineyard in September of 1972. That still makes me a wash-ashore, but my children are natives. Leon Bennett was my husband, and our home is in Vineyard Haven. We spent many weekend mornings having breakfast at the Black Dog. We knew enough to get there early to get a seat.
Labor Day weekend we spent at the Harborlight where the Chinese restaurant is now and watched the hoards leaving the Island while eating onion rings, fries, and fried fish. Town was always busy during the week and very busy on the weekends, because of guaranteed standby. Vineyard Haven didn’t have alcohol, the Flying Horses, a game room, or a decent beach, but we had standby.
In 1987, my husband and I purchased the 15 Main Street building. The restaurant at that time was the Ship’s Galley. We ran it for a while and then leased it out. Eventually the spot became Diodati’s Restaurant & Clam Bar, and Leon and I opened the Get a Life Café.
Vineyard Haven was busy then. In the spring the streets almost hummed, and there was electricity in the air. Lots of college students were on the Island during spring break looking for summer jobs. They could afford summer housing and still save some money.
Then we had an overwhelming Fourth of July weekend with standbys parked up at the Tisbury School, and that was the beginning of the end for Vineyard Haven because summer standby came to an end. The town has become quieter and quieter in the summer. The last busy summer at the Get a Life Café was the summer of 1999. We had lines out the door from 8 am to noon. Leon and I sold the business, and last year I sold the building.
I have no financial stake any more in what happens with Main Street businesses, however I’m alarmed at what I’m hearing. The restaurants are hurting, the shops are hurting. All the people that want the town to stay the same don’t realize that if an area doesn’t grow and revitalize, it will die. Many years ago Leon Bennett and Robert Simpkins started a gun shop. The hoopla over that beat all the talk about beer and wine. The whole Island was up in arms against that. Crime was going to increase tenfold. Teenagers were going to be walking downtown packing guns, and Tisbury was going to change forever. Well nothing much happened and eventually the shop closed, because gun owners still preferred to go off-Island to save $25 on a gun.
I’m sensing the same hysteria over wine and beer There is wine and beer here already. Customers in the know have liquor stores deliver to the restaurants in the summer. Some restaurants have liquor lockers. Beer and wine would just let a few restaurants have a better profit margin and keep diners and shoppers in town. It was inferred in a letter that building owners want beer and wine so their properties will increase in value. An owner can put any price he or she wants on a building, but the purchaser still has to be able to pay a mortgage and make a little money.
It was also stated in The Times that there has always been a turnover in businesses in Tisbury. Why are we accepting this? The rents are high, and the foot traffic is low. I know that many businesses that depend on lots of foot traffic fail because Tisbury doesn’t have as much foot traffic as it used to. Why don’t we have a beautiful waterfront with either nice shops or interesting marine life for visitors to see and touch?
Please, we need to make our town a destination, not a pass-through to the other towns.
In this together
To the Editor:
We feel we are in a no-win situation. We proudly serve many Islanders, and that has contributed to our success. Currently, we run the risk of alienating the very population that we seek and need to attract. We are not greedy but are unfairly labeled as such in the process of making a fiscally responsible choice.
I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1709-1794, who said, "Those who do not feel pain seldom think that it is felt." This applies to both sides of this argument. If each side truly acknowledged the other’s pain, we would not be divided. We would just be concerned how, not if, this decision fit within the bigger plan that properly managed the future of Tisbury, which we all agree is necessary. The best we can do is in making sure the rules and regulations protect all of us. It seems we all want prosperity and preservation of the uniqueness of the town, but just not at the price each of us is asking.
The success or failure of this initiative will not be in its passage or non-passage but how the residents of Tisbury direct the selectman to proceed once we have decided. There is no guarantee Tisbury will prosper without a healthy food service industry, and there is no guarantee that Tisbury’s charm and safety will be compromised with beer and wine available in our restaurants. We are equally vulnerable. It’s up to all of us to see that Tisbury remains healthy. In the event the initiative passes, we hope that the selectmen will be critical of each prospective licensee with an eye to their complete impact on Tisbury and service to the same and thus be very selective to whom they grant this privilege. It would be a privilege (not a right), and as such, business owners would have a special responsibility to protect the community.
In that light we suggest that a restaurant is in business for a stated period of time before the license is granted. That way we would know who could be trusted with the town’s character. Isn’t that what it boils down to, trust? Our financial fate is in Tisbury’s hands and Tisbury’s preservation is in ours. We are in this together, and isn’t it possible that we both want the very same thing, to be preserved?
Douglas and Leslie Hewson
Owners, Mediterranean Restaurant
Yes is the answer
To the Editor:
I am a retired flight attendant who started flying in the early 1970s and flew for 26 years. Reading the letters to the editor reminds me of the time when the airline industry ended its two-drink maximum policy on all flights. Passengers, flight attendants, and pilots were fearful that we would have more drunks on the planes. A drunk at 39,000 feet is never a good thing.
Passengers said they would never fly again, flight attendants said they would not serve more than two drinks, no matter what the company said.
What happened in reality, after the two-drink maximum was dropped, so did the number of drunken passengers. Instead of the passengers bringing their own bottles on board and hiding the amount of drinks they were having, the flight attendants now knew what was being consumed, and we could cut the passengers off if they were getting tipsy.
Tisbury going wet is essentially the same thing, but on a much smaller scale. If you bring a bottle to a restaurant, you can, and some people do, drink the whole thing. If you are allowed to buy a glass with your meal, you will drink less.
Just like the flight attendants finally got some power in being able to cut people off, the waitperson would now have that same power. After 9/11, I remember a California senator trying to put legislation in place for the airlines to go back to the two-drink maximum. This time, the passengers and flight attendants were fearful of that happening.
By the way, the same fears reared their ugly heads when the airline industry started confining smoking passengers to the back of the airplane in the smoking section, then stopping smoking altogether - all the smokers were going to stop flying.
Vote yes to beer and wine in Tisbury - I know you are still flying.
We like it as it is
To the Editor:
If Tisbury could experiment and allow those 30-plus-seat restaurants to serve beer and wine (with food) for 2-3 or 3-5 years, do you think their off-season numbers would increase, or just the summer season bottom line?
I really enjoy a pint with dinner, but I don’t think I would go out to eat in V.H. any more than I do now. I used to feel as though I lodged at the Black Dog. It was breakfast, lunch, coffee after work and often dinner as well. For 30 years, it has never been an inconvenience to BYOB-it to any restaurant in V.H. I actually prefer the novelty of it, the quirkiness, if you will.
There is no question whatsoever that all of the restaurateurs work extremely hard at their chosen profession. Let’s face it, most working class people do.
We all know that change is inevitable, and we are all going through these times together. It’s just that there are still some of us around whose quality of life was never compromised by the dryness of V.H., and we like it that way.
We are not afraid, nor are we fear-mongers, like some folk. We are not prohibitionist, nor are we anti-profit margins for restaurants. We just have grown to love good old V.H. the way it is.
Yes, let’s hope that we continue to grow and prosper. I wonder if we can imagine a vibrant, unique yet quaint seaport town that is not hinged on the sale of beer and wine to us locals or the weary traveler. I wonder if we can imagine our beloved harbor town where a rising tide would truly lift all boats.
Easier for all of us
To the Editor:
The choice we Tisbury voters make to allow, or not, the legal sale of beer and wine is less about wet or dry and more about regulating what is already available. The character of the town is and should remain unique from Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. I have seen an overwhelming amount of stubborn conviction that bars will not be tolerated and agree whole- heartedly bars/taverns would be bad for Tisbury. The law is written to make bars illegal, as they should be.
The question is, are we willing to enforce the new law? From talking to the police, it will not add to the job of patrolling Main Street just an eight-hour shift a year to verify compliance and training. It is up to all Tisbury residents to realize we are wet now, BYOB is unregulated, the restaurants are not insured for any alcohol related problems resulting from over consumption, the police do not have as many ways to control the service and verify training for the proper service of just beer and wine. The bottom line is it will be enforced, because it is in everyone’s interests to be enforced. It won’t be a slippery slope because who wants to go there? It will not turn us wet because we already are. It will limit service to beer and wine. If it passes, it may make it a little easier for all of us to enjoy our local establishments. I will go more often if it does.
To the Editor:
Beer and wine is already here. The question is what are you going to do about it?
My family has owned and operated the Bunch of Grapes bookstore for over three decades, and I have always been involved and aware of the Main Street community’s activities firsthand, with the exception of my absence during my active duty military service 1986-1998. I have never known, either as a child going out to dinner with my parents or as an adult dining out with my wife and our children, an alcohol-free Tisbury.
As a social and safety issue, an opportunity is being provided for you to regulate a very present and currently unregulated substance and provide the establishments serving alcohol a path to liability insurance, which under the current situation they are ineligible for. That insurance is for the consumer’s protection as much as for the provider’s. I also believe there is the opportunity for economic stimulus by providing better hospitality to our visitors allowing them to remain and shop in our town after enjoying their lunch or dinner.
There has been much talk as to the character of Tisbury, and it saddens me greatly to observe what I have always known as the "year-round town" to slowly dwindle in life and appearance. While the ability to sell beer and wine to the public will not solve all the problems we face as a town trying to maintain its effervescence, it will provide for a safer and more lucrative atmosphere for residents and visitors alike.
Whatever the outcome, the Bunch of Grapes will still be here for you 362 days a year and I thank you for honoring mine and my fellow veterans’ and soldiers’ service by exercising your right to vote.
Jon C. Nelson Jr.
A voice of moderation
To the Editor:
A $590,000 Tisbury 2.5 override for ball field improvement is harmful to our heavily taxed electorate in a time of recession; hence my plea for reconsidering Article 4, sec. h., made at the town meeting.
In light of recession, mine is the voice of moderation and spending restraint in perilous financial times, not a hue and cry against the citizenry and its ball field. The local fiscal problem results from flag waving "our kids" in front of town meeting, precipitating approval of reckless spending. Some of those kids range up to 18 years of age. It is irresponsible to teach them as new voters that when one doesn’t like a law, just toss it aside. Mine is not a parental rebuke in child rearing, but rather a caveat against imbuing a spirit in our young people of tossing aside Prop. 2.5 unnecessarily.
It was inappropriately childish, as well, for a town meeting member to offer Iraqi war costs in contrasting justification for fixing a Tisbury ball field. This amounts to the puerile mixing of apples and oranges, as the two are totally unrelated and mutually exclusive. Of serious consequence, however, is a town warrant article calling for $300 trash cans and $500 planks for team benches, without justification or cost explanation. This evinces a seriously flawed Department of Public Works bidding process smacking of "pork." One does not need a $500 plank for riding the bench while waiting for the coach to "put me in."
Article 4, sec. h, also provides for the "Board of Selectmen to accept gifts or donations to reduce the cost of the project." I pointed out that nobody at town meeting offered "$50,000, $10,000 or a dime" in urging passage of Article 4, sec. h. The meeting was silent.
There’s no harm in rejecting and sending the ball field question back to the DPW with a request to sharpen pencils, submitting in 2009 or 2010, hopefully post-recession, a fiscally responsible article without $300 trash cans and $500 benches. In my remarks, Chief Justice John Marshall (1755-1835) was quoted: "The power to tax involves the power to destroy." In fixed income retirement, I have no desire to be destroyed under increasing tax burdens precipitated by Prop. 2.5 overrides. Thankfully, there’s always next week’s Tisbury vote for rejecting town meeting Article 4, sec. h, by voting down Question 2, an unwarranted ball park override of Prop. 2.5.
Bruce E. Doten
Please vote yes
To the Editor:
Since this will be the last opportunity before the ballot vote, I’d just like to chime in once again on the issue of beer and wine in Tisbury.
I’d like to thank those of you who have come in to Nicky’s or spoken to me around town with an open mind about the subject. There have been a lot of you, and while I can’t be in the ballot box with you, the majority of you seemed persuaded to vote in favor after consideration of all the facts, accurate facts.
I have to say though that some of the misconceptions and propaganda being spread around is truly laughable.
The opponents of beer and wine are really pushing the fear factor, so I would question the veracity of what you hear out there. The "slippery slope" term so often used in the paper is clearly lined with cow manure.
Look around, Tisbury voters, and think about what the fear-mongers claim will be the ultimate horror - vitality and energy in your business districts. Who knows, maybe Beach Road will finally be improved so it doesn’t look like Death Valley. It’s always amazed me that Tisbury is a major port of entry and still remains only a pass-thru town.
Please, please, please, vote yes to Question 4 on April 15. Thank you.
Not out of character
To the Editor:
As a resident of Vineyard Haven, I often walk into town or walk home from the ferry. Sometimes I will run into a friend and stay and talk for a while. Being able to sit down for a beer and a hamburger, or stay in town for dinner and a glass of wine (and do this without a lot of planning and scheduling), should be a normal and pleasant part of that experience - certainly not out of character with the routines of our daily life.
More broadly, Vineyard Haven is the Island’s year-round town and its main gateway. As such, we need to make an extra effort to welcome visitors and make them feel at home, instead of sending people away just when they need to sit down, relax and have a nice meal.
Our existing regulations are not helpful in this regard. While stating that this is a "dry town" we are simultaneously encouraged to circumvent this rule by bringing our own bottles with us when we eat out. For visitors, there is no option but to move on down the road.
The new regulations take a more balanced approach, excluding the extremes and allowing us to pick something that goes with what’s on the menu that night.
Finally, the new regulations return control over these issues to us, the residents of this town. As time goes by we will likely need to make adjustments to these regulations - the number of licenses, fees, enforcement and the like. These are questions best handled by the community itself, among friends and neighbors who have the town’s best interest at heart and who, through town meeting, will have the last word in how they are applied.
Editor’s Note: The writer is co-chairman of the Tisbury planning board.