Edgartown selectmen rebuff alcohol license for troubled store

Animal control officer Barbara Prada presented her quarterly report to selectmen on Monday. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The new owners of Sophia’s One Stop Mart, an Edgartown convenience store on Upper Main Street, have withdrawn their application for a permit to sell beer and wine. The change of heart came at a public hearing Monday, after police strongly opposed the application and selectmen warned the owner that they were not inclined to approve it until they received more assurances that the owners will comply with alcohol regulations.

The town contends that the store operated without a valid alcohol license for several months after the transfer of ownership last summer. The store failed four police compliance checks in the past two years by selling alcohol to an underaged customer, according to police.

The applicant, Sergio Goncalves, said he bought the business last fall, but that he didn’t understand that he needed to amend the beer and wine license issued to previous owners.

Attorney Mary Sullivan, who represented the new owner at the license hearing, said Mr. Goncalves has taken measures to ensure the manager and employees operate within the law, including identification scanners to detect fake licenses.

“All the necessary equipment is there,” Ms. Sullivan told the board. “There’s a solid manager; there are cameras throughout the store. There’s a way to make sure the business is operating as it should.”

Town manager Pam Dolby said the previous owners and the current owner have had a very rocky relationship with town government.

“This business has been less than truthful with the board of selectmen’s office for at least the past year,” Ms. Dolby said. “This business was sold, as best we can tell, June 1. So technically, this business operated with no license, without the knowledge of elected officials, from June until they surrendered their license on December 10. During that time, two underage offenses occurred. It’s really fortunate that nobody went in there and bought a bottle and got drunk and went out and got into an accident. The town could have been liable.”

Police Chief Tony Bettencourt urged the board to reject the application. “This is not something I would support at all,” he said. “We spent a lot of hours there doing regular surveillance work, police work, in the courthouse. I don’t think this is something I want back right away.”

Selectman Art Smadbeck urged Mr. Goncalves to withdraw the license application, and work with the police department.

“The fact that this business ran with no license for months does not give me the confidence to vote for a new license at this point in time,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “I don’t see how the board can approve this.”

After consulting with her client outside the meeting room, Ms. Sullivan told the board he would withdraw the application and schedule a meeting with the police department.

It’s a festival

Also Monday, selectmen approved a plan to move the annual Food and Wine festival downtown. For the past few years, the main tasting event was at the Field Club, a private facility on the way to Katama.

“We wanted to move it into town so businesses would benefit from the foot traffic,” Christina Cook, president of the Edgartown board of trade, said.

Selectmen authorized the group to erect three tents in the Mayhew Lane municipal lot to host the grand tasting event on the afternoon of Saturday, October 19. The parking lot will be closed to install the tents the day before, and the tents will be removed late Saturday night, or early Sunday, October 20. Selectmen agreed to close Kelly Street to all but pedestrian traffic for the Saturday event.

Selectmen also granted permission to hang banners and flags promoting the board of trade sponsored Pink and Green Weekend, scheduled for May 10-12. The event celebrates spring and Mother’s Day.

In other action, the board received a schedule of cruise ship arrivals from American Cruise Lines. The company operates three cruise ships, which carry about 100 passengers each. The ships will begin arriving in Edgartown on May 21, and continue weekly through September 23. The cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in the evening, and depart in the early morning hours two days later, giving passengers two nights and one full day in Edgartown. The ships will anchor in the outer harbor, and ferry passengers to town docks in their own launch.