Cleanup, investigations continue in wake of July 4 blaze; Tuesday's Street Fair is still on
Despite the devastating July Fourth fire that destroyed Cafe Moxie and badly damaged the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore on Main Street, the Tisbury selectmen announced Saturday morning that the town will hold its Street Fair as planned on Main Street on Tuesday, July 8, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm.
"We want people to come to the Street Fair and enjoy our town – we want it to be packed," said selectman Tristan Israel.
The selectmen held a 40-minute emergency meeting, starting at 9 am on July 5 at the Katharine Cornell Theatre. They discussed plans for clean-up and restoration efforts with town officials and Cafe Moxie owner and chef Austin Racine, his partner Kristina Yekel, and Paul Currier, the building owner.
Ann Nelson, whose family owns the Bunch of Grapes next door, was unable to attend. Denys Wortman, chairman of the town selectmen, reported that he had spoken with Ms. Nelson Friday evening, and she told him although the bookstore building remains intact, the inventory is a loss from smoke damage.
Offering condolences to the owners and families associated with both businesses, Mr. Wortman said, "We're here to do whatever we can to help, to figure out what we can do to help."
Mr. Racine said despite Cafe Moxie's loss, he hopes to carry out his plans to run a food booth at the street fair. Several friends, including Gina Stanley, owner of Artcliff Diner, have offered the use of their kitchens to him, he said. Department of Public Works (DPW) director Fred LaPiana suggested setting up a collection box at the street fair for contributions to restoration expenses for Cafe Moxie and the bookstore.
The selectmen also have scheduled a second meeting with the Tisbury business community at town hall on Monday, July 7, at 10 am. They have asked Susan and Sherm Goldstein, co-owners of the Mansion House Inn, at the Beach Road corner of Main Street, to offer advice, based on their experiences, after a fire destroyed their building on Dec. 15, 2001.
The selectmen thanked and praised Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling for his department's hard work in fighting the fire, as well as the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown fire departments for their help. Both the selectmen and Chief Schilling also took note of the generous outpouring of support from the community.
Chief Schilling said Assistant Fire Chief James Rogers, a state-certified fire investigator, is conducting the department's investigation of the fire. In addition, multiple insurance companies that are involved require their own investigations, which will impact how quickly the site may be cleaned up.
"It could be a matter of days or a matter of weeks," Chief Schilling warned. "We want to make sure the board and the public is aware we don't have control over this situation." A dumpster currently located in front of Cafe Moxie must remain in place, as well as debris on the sidewalk, until insurance investigators agree to its removal, he explained.
Mr. Currier suggested he could put up a fence in front of Cafe Moxie before Tuesday night's event as a protective barrier. Mr. LaPiana, however, offered that the DPW would build a wood barrier that extends into the parking spaces in front of the restaurant and to designate a pathway to give pedestrians safe access around the fire site, a proposal that the selectmen approved.
Bowl and Board owner Garry Metters, whose business is across the street from the fire site, suggested he and other Tisbury business owners could put flyers up to alert Islanders that the street fair is still on, and assistant town administrator Aase Jones volunteered to help with the production.
In addition to the selectmen's concern about helping the business owners affected by the fire, Mr. Israel said, "These two places have an enormous impact on business in the town, let alone an impact on businesses on one of their busiest holidays, the Fourth of July."
The selectmen called state Rep. Eric Turkington and state Sen. Robert O'Leary yesterday to ask about possible economic aid from the state for Tisbury. Although Mr. Turkington was unable to attend Saturday's meeting, he and Mr. Wortman made arrangements for a conference call. In the call made by Mr. Wortman to Mr. Turkington at 9:15 am during the meeting, the selectman explained that the loss of the cafe and bookstore affects other businesses in town, and asked if Mr. Turkington had any thoughts about state funds that might be available.
Mr. Wortman confirmed that the cafe and bookstore are insured, and Mr. Turkington said he would look into the possibility of loans and consult with state officials about what else might be available.
And the selectmen agreed to ask town administrator John Bugbee to approach senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, seeking whatever assistance may be available.