To the Editor:During the debate over alcohol in Tisbury, some of us raised concerns about the very high number of licenses that selectmen could potentially grant. Didn’t this put the town at risk of unbridled development and summer eateries driving out year-round businesses, changing the character of the town?
No, we were told again and again by members of the business community. Our fears were unfounded because sewage flow restrictions would severely limit the number of licensees. We were raising a non-issue to scare voters.
Now, surprise surprise, the business community is pushing to ease sewage flow limits, allowing for more restaurants and other development. I’m all for honest debate over honest differences. But this makes me feel, yet again, that some landlords and business owners in this town cannot be trusted to act or speak in anyone’s interest but their own.
As I wrote in a Letter to the Editor, before the April vote to allow beer and wine sales by restaurants:
Your otherwise excellent article on beer and wine regulations fails to clarify a crucial point. The upcoming vote authorizes selectmen to grant an unlimited number of seasonal licenses. The wording of the ballot question obscures this, creating the impression that no more than 19 restaurants may be licensed. However, at Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss the regulations, selectmen said the 19 figure applies only to year-round restaurants and that there is no cap on seasonal licenses.
As Tristan Israel stated in your article, “Nineteen licenses is a very high number for a town of our size.” Yet we are now voting to grant selectmen the power to license many more than that.
Due to building codes and other restrictions, dozens of restaurants won’t instantly qualify for licenses, nor will selectmen grant them — now. But as the economy improves and the landscape of Vineyard Haven changes, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. And there will be strong pressure to issue licenses, from landlords, new restaurant owners, and developers.
Many residents wish to support the year-round restaurants that are here and give a boost to town commerce with a reasonable number of licenses. But the April 27 ballot opens the door to a very different outcome — a seasonal town, where new restaurants have driven up rents and displaced existing businesses, leaving year-round residents with a Main Street that is even quieter and more limited in its retail choices than now.
Tony HorwitzVineyard Haven