Beer and wine tops Tisbury’s ballot questions Tuesday


A question about beer and wine is generating the most fizz from voters among six questions on Tisbury’s April 27 town election ballot.

Question one asks voters to decide whether to allow Tisbury’s selectmen to grant licenses for selling beer and wine in restaurants, including ones in hotels and inns.

The language provided by State legislators for this year’s ballot question reads, “Shall the board of selectmen of the town of Tisbury be authorized to grant 19 licenses for the sale of wines and malt beverages to be drunk on the premises of restaurants, including restaurants within inns and hotels, with seating capacities of not less than 30 persons, to be consumed with meals only, and only to patrons who are seated at dining tables, and to grant seasonal licenses for the same as the selectmen may determine?”

Although the 2010 ballot question is similar to one put before voters in 2008, the selectmen were required this time to specify a number of year-round licenses, in accordance with state law.

As selectman Geoghan Coogan explained in an interview with The Times last month, state advisors recommended that the town request a maximum number of licenses that took future needs into account. Otherwise, once a number was specified in legislation, the town would have to go through the whole legislative process again to add even one additional license.

The selectmen chose 19 as a maximum for year-round licenses after developing a list of Vineyard Haven restaurants with the potential to meet the eligibility requirements for a beer and wine license, based on seating capacity and the capability to convert to dining and wait staff services.

The selectmen’s list includes restaurants whose owners may or may not have expressed any interest in getting a beer and wine license. Those that do not get licenses may continue to allow their patrons to bring their own alcoholic beverages. There would be no bars or package stores allowed.

The selectmen will control the number of year-round licenses issued, as well as seasonal licenses, which run from April 1 through January 15. Although the number of seasonal licenses is not limited to a specific number, restaurants seeking those also have to meet the same eligibility requirements for seating, wait staff and table service, and consumption with meals. Another limiting factor for Vineyard Haven restaurants seeking beer and wine licenses is that their number of seats is tied to sewer flow allowances.

Under the town’s current knowing but informal acquiescence to bring-your-own-bottle alcohol consumption by restaurant patrons, alcohol may be consumed in all of Tisbury’s restaurants, without limit. The selectmen have said in press releases and several public meetings that they have no intention of issuing all 19 year-round licenses at once or an unlimited number of seasonal licenses.

They also have a 13-page collection of alcohol licensing policies, rules and regulations, drafted two years ago in preparation for the possibility of a yes vote on the 2008 beer and wine ballot question. The regulations were shelved when the question did not pass.

The selectmen held a work session in March to reexamine and update the rules and regulations. Should the ballot question pass next week, the selectmen said they would hold another public discussion before approving the final document.

For voters who need an incentive to head to the polls Tuesday, Tisbury’s last experience with a beer and wine question should serve as a reminder that every vote counts and that every ballot should be clearly marked.

In 2008, a beer and wine ballot question resulted in a tie vote, 690 to 690, which meant that it failed because a majority, 50 percent of the votes cast, plus one, was not achieved. A recount was requested.

A manual recount on May 2 involved not only counting ballots clearly marked, but also interpreting 21 ballots questionably marked that the optical scanner had counted as blanks. The recount resulted in two more no votes, defeating the measure with 692 against and 690 for.

Five other questions

The five other ballot questions are Proposition 2.5 override requests. Voters approved corresponding warrant articles at the April 13 annual town meeting.

Question two asks voters to allow the town to assess an additional $225,000 in taxes to fund the Tisbury Police Department’s union contract arbitration award. That amount includes $125,000 for retroactive pay to settle the contract for fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010. The remaining $100,000 is to supplement the police department’s fiscal year 2011 budget to cover the new contracted salary rates.

The remaining four ballot questions address capital exclusion items, including $120,000 for a Department of Public Works (DPW) refuse truck, $75,000 for a generator for Tisbury School, $20,000 for painting the exterior of the Tisbury Senior Center, and $20,000 to replace the body of a DPW sander truck.