Selectmen reverse ban on bands on Oak Bluffs Harbor

Oak Bluffs Harbor on a calm day.
Photo by Tim Johnson

Oak Bluffs Harbor on a calm day.

Dozens of Island musicians, including singer Carly Simon, packed the Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting room Tuesday evening and cheered when selectmen voted 3-1 to reverse a temporary ban on outside amplified music.

Selectmen established a two-week trial period in which bands can play outside until 9 pm.

“I don’t have a problem with amplified music,” selectman Greg Coogan said. “I have a problem with it being loud, and I have a problem with it being late at night.”

The controversy has focused on the Sand Bar and Nancy’s Restaurant on Oak Bluffs Harbor, which have booked more live bands and DJs in recent years and sparked more complaints.

“Those two particular establishments, if they abuse that, then we end amplified music for the rest of the summer. We won’t have any option,” Mr. Coogan said.

Selectman Gail Barmakian was the dissenting vote in the 3-1 decision. She said the trial period is similar to current regulations, which are not working.

“I don’t think that’s tight enough,” Ms. Barmakian said, referring to the 9 pm ending time. “If there is no guideline about the sound, the two businesses are just going to compete with each other.”

Selectman Mike Santoro, who is managing partner of two competing Oak Bluffs restaurants, abstained from the vote, and did not participate in the debate.

The board agreed to continue studying the outdoor music ordinance proposed by Ms. Barmakian, which would prohibit all outdoor amplified music, except by special permit.

Also Tuesday, library trustees renewed their plea for selectmen to lift the hiring freeze imposed last fall, to allow them to hire an assistant library director/reference librarian.

“You have to be ready, the town has to be ready,” trustee chairman Beatrice Greene told selectmen, “when the summer comes. If we don’t have the help, we’re going to reduce hours. We will only do 26 hours per week.”

Selectmen questioned why the library must reduce hours, when it has remained open 40 hours per week while the positions of reference librarian and a part-time library assistant have been vacant for nearly a year.

“We have been patching things together with library aides,” library director Danguole Budris said. “That doesn’t work in the summer.”

Selectmen, however, would not grant an exception to the hiring freeze, until they discussed other personnel and service cuts.

In other action, selectmen authorized organizers of the Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Festival, scheduled for August 6 to August 13, to open the festival on August 6 with a Dixieland band marching off the 12:45 pm boat and parading through downtown streets and the Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association campgrounds.