Essay: We promise safe, regulated beer and wine sales

Essay: We promise safe, regulated beer and wine sales

As we wind up the town meeting season and head into the ballot there is one vote that many will be coming out on Tuesday to cast.

That is the vote concerning beer and wine.

Tisbury has so far weathered the storm of the economic downturn. Tisbury has managed to keep its strong bond rating to finance the emergency services facility at historic low interest rates. In participation with the Tisbury finance committee we have trimmed excesses and questioned departments as to needs versus wants, and we continue to look toward the future of preserving the way of life we have in Tisbury.

The selectmen support the need for future planning while understanding the current climate, the larger economic outlook, and the sincere concerns that taxpayers and voters have. There are those who question the current operation of certain restaurants in town in regards to the sale of beer and wine. We must cast aside our concerns over how restaurants have operated, and focus on how they will operate with regulations in place. We must look toward the bigger picture and the positive ripple effect that supporting beer and wine will have within our community.

We have listened to the concerns, some of which we feel are unfounded and simply not true. There is no need to hire additional police or town employees if this ballot question passes. Passage assures a high degree of regulation by both the local licensing authority and the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Currently we have an unregulated and convoluted situation with our restaurants.

The penalties and outcomes of violations of the law are clearly identified in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 138, sections 64, 65, as well as additional information in sections 23 and 67. The perception is that Tisbury does not properly oversee our restaurants now, and therefore the situation will only be worse with beer and wine. We believe the very opposite. Having regulations in place will allow us to better oversee the restaurants.

This is not a fatal experiment. There are a controlled set of regulations with penalties that will be enforced by the authorities against anyone that violates the law. Chapter 138 Section 56 of the Massachusetts General Laws specifically outlines enforcement and the different methods used to uphold the law, including complaints by private citizens.

By passing beer and wine at the ballot we believe a more viable commercial district will evolve. But it’s not all about the commercial tax base. It is all about the residential tax base and how we protect it. The best way to protect the residential tax base is to make sure the commercial tax base has the tools to compete. The passage of beer and wine gives the commercial properties an additional tool that is needed to compete and to create an atmosphere where businesses can flourish. Tisbury has inherent limitations due to it’s commercially zoned land mass.

Tisbury andthe Martha’s Vineyard Commission have wisely encouraged growth of new and existing businesses while maintaining strong environmental and quality of life protections. That will not change with passage of beer and wine.

Businesses pay dividends in employing neighbors, friends and family, by creating jobs and paying for goods and services. Businesses provide synergy for the town services by funding local improvements to local infrastructure when they build or expand. They also provide donations to the schools and a vast array of community programs. We have seen a major decline in our Main Street. What was once a counted-on, year-round business district is now a shell of itself, and we need to bring it back to life. Is beer and wine the “be all, end all” for Main Street in Tisbury? Absolutely not. But is it a part of the greater solution? We believe so. We believe the time is right in Tisbury for the sale of beer and wine. We look forward to your vote, and we believe you can count on your town to provide a safe and regulated operation for the sale of beer and wine.

Jeff Kristal and Geoghan Coogan are Tisbury selectmen.

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