Sam Dunn, co-owner of the Barn, Bowl & Bistro, went before Oak Bluffs selectmen Tuesday night hoping to amend the establishment’s liquor license so he could extend last call for food and beverages by one hour. He also requested that the entertainment license be amended to allow amplified live music for up to a “trio” of musicians.
Selectmen, citing noise concerns and continuing complaints from abutters, unanimously agreed to pull the plug on the amplified music request.
However, the extended last-call request triggered a lengthy debate and a split 2-2 vote.
Selectman Michael Santoro, owner of three Oak Bluffs restaurants, recused himself from both votes.
The Barn, Bowl and Bistro has become a popular venue for bowlers and diners. Last call is 10:30 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. The times were one of a number of conditions stipulated by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) following a public hearing and review of the business by the regional planning agency as a development of regional impact (DRI) in early 2014.
Mr. Dunn told selectmen the current hours are a constant source of customer complaints during the off-season, when Islanders compete in leagues. “This past year, 15 percent of people on this Island were in a league,” he said. “We filled two sessions, five nights a week. But the people who bowl in the later leagues can’t get something to eat or a beer after they’re done,” he said.
Mr. Dunn said the current hours also impact the Bistro’s bottom line. “We pointed out in the beginning that bowling on this Island has always failed,” he said. “Bowling doesn’t work without a restaurant and a bar.”
Mr. Dunn told selectmen he was only asking for parity with other Oak Bluffs victualers. Chairman Gail Barmakian was against extending last call, citing the ongoing complaints from abutters. She also said Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake had expressed concern that concurrent closing hours on opposite ends of the business district would be a strain on the department.
Selectman Kathy Burton noted that the closing times Mr. Dunn was requesting were still earlier than those of some Circuit Avenue liquor permitholders.
Selectman Walter Vail also expressed concern about noise complaints. “You’re also in a different area than the other bars, it doesn’t feel like that’s a precedent,” he said.
“You agreed to a lot [of conditions] in the beginning, and you’re more successful than you probably expected to be,” selectman Greg Coogan said. “Entertainment is one thing, [last call] is another. I’m amenable to compromise.Trying it in the off-season is more amenable to me.”
Ms. Burton made a motion to allow the extra hour for food and beverage, but not for bowling, which is often cited in abutters’ complaints. Mr. Coogan seconded the motion. Ms. Barmakian and Mr. Vail voted against the extension, and the board’s 2 – 2 vote denied the motion.
In other business, town administrator Robert Whritenour told selectmen that the harbor fueling facility has continued to provide a strong stream of revenue for the town. He said that 130,000 gallons were sold in FY16, nearly double the projected 70,000 gallons. Mr. Whritenour said he expects the upward trend to continue in FY17, citing low fuel costs that were locked in after an aggressive bidding process, which was won by R.M. Packer. Once the facility is paid off, Mr. Whritenour said, the proceeds from the facility can fund other harbor improvements, such as shoring up the jetties and improving the bathrooms.
Selectmen were also given an update on the Island Theater by Mr. Whritenour. He said building inspector Mark Barbadoro issued an order to co-owners Ben and Brian Hall on June 28, which stated that the building had been declared “dangerous” by a certified, independent structural engineer, and if structural deficiencies were not addressed by Oct. 15, the town could initiate the emergency repairs and place a lien on the building. “I don’t want to speculate whether or not this will happen, but I wanted to bring this up tonight to give you a copy of a proposal from a local structural engineer to put together some costs and what planning would be needed in the event that the town has to step in and make structural repairs,” Mr. Whritenour said.
Oak Bluffs resident John Lolley has submitted a proposal for $5,800 to “develop Make Safe construction drawings necessary to stabilize Island Theater for future renovation.” Mr. Whritenour said the resulting detailed cost estimate for repairs would be presented at town meeting for approval.
“It’s going to be a tough process to go through, and I just want to make sure you have all the information you need,” he said.
Correction – An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that John Lolley is a Tisbury resident.