West Tisbury restaurants will ask voters to approve beer/wine sales

State Road Restaurant, West Tisbury. The availability of beer and wine would please customers and reward owners and employees. — Photo by Susan Safford

Three West Tisbury restaurant owners will ask voters at the April town meeting to begin the process of legalizing the sale of beer and wine in restaurants.

The restaurant owners say they will appear before the selectmen at the board’s January 26 meeting. State Road Restaurant owner Jackson Kenworth confirmed the strategy, in a telephone interview with The Times.

The restaurant owners plan to present a signed petition January 20, to town clerk Tara Whiting, claiming a place as an article on the town meeting warrant. Ten signatures are required.

The State Road Restaurant, the Lambert’s Cove Inn, and the Plane View Restaurant began the signature collection a couple of weeks ago.

“A customer of our restaurant and the inn came in and suggested that we get this started,” Mr. Kenworth said. He declined to identify the customer.

Mr. Kenworth said that the restaurant owners are seeking the same conditions under which beer and wine sales are permitted in Tisbury. Beer and wine sales in restaurants began in Tisbury in July 2010, and Mr. Kenworth said, “I have heard that is going well there.”

Plane View owner Bob Jackson told The Times that beer and wine sales will be good for his restaurant’s business.

The sale of beer and wine in West Tisbury restaurants offers several benefits, Mr. Kenworth said.

“It would be a convenience for up-Island residents and an enhancement for visitors. Many visitors still come in and are confused because they aren’t familiar with dry towns. There is also the opportunity for the serving staff to increase their earnings. Now they can get a job in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown and make more money,” he said.

Does Mr. Kenworth expect opposition to the warrant article?

“I think change is hard for some people. But I think with beer and wine sales here, there will be more control over consumption.” He said that when people bring their own beer or wine into a restaurant, they tend to drink more than when they order from a menu.

Richard Knabel, chairman of the West Tisbury selectmen, told The Times in a telephone interview, “The voters of West Tisbury will decide what they want to do. If there is support we will find that out at town meeting. It was not something on our radar, but I am not surprised that it has come up.”

Recently Aquinnah also approved the sale of beer and wine in restaurants so that Chilmark and West Tisbury are the Island’s only “dry” — non-alcohol serving — towns.

The process for allowing the beer and wine sales is multi-step and could take a couple of years. Initially, voters must approve a warrant article to allow the selectmen to submit a Home Rule Petition (HRP) request for beer and wine sales to the state legislature.

Mr. Knabel said that if the voters approve the HRP request, the selectmen would meet with state Representative Tim Madden and state Senator Dan Wolf to seek their assistance in obtaining approval of the HRP.

If the state legislature approves the petition, it goes to the governor for signature. Then the voters of West Tisbury would again be asked to consider allowing beer and wine sales under regulations set by the state and town officials.

Mr. Knabel said that the selectmen would be able to create the rules that would apply to town restaurants in addition to those spelled out in state regulations.

Finally, each eligible restaurant must apply to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABSS) for a license.

In Tisbury, eligible restaurants are those that seat 30 patrons or more. Beer and wine may be ordered with a meal but not with snack food, and it must be served by a waiter with the meal, on solid dinnerware with flatware.