Oak Bluffs selectmen approve liquor license for bowling alley

Sam Dunn (right), flanked by his lawyer Howard Miller, appeared before Oak Bluffs selectmen Tuesday to request a liquor license for his new bowling alley. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated 11 am Thursday, March 27, 2014

In his first meeting with the Oak Bluffs selectmen in October, developer Sam Dunn said a full liquor license was a “no-go” item for his proposed bowling alley/restaurant/entertainment center. On Tuesday, the liquor license became a “go-go” item.

Selectmen approved Mr. Dunn’s application in a 3-0 vote. Selectman Gail Barmakian abstained. Selectman Michael Santoro was out of town on family business.

In a telephone interview with the Times on Wednesday, Mr. Dunn said, “I’m really glad to have all these discretionary approvals behind us. That’s the fifth and last one. I’m very grateful to the many citizens of Oak Bluffs and the Vineyard who have supported us through this long process.”

Mr. Dunn said he hopes to break ground in May and finish by the end of the year.

Selectmen granted the license with the proviso that Mr. Dunn incorporate the conditions stipulated by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) in its formal written decision, which include sound and light mitigation, landscaping, and limited use of the function room.

Compared to the lengthy MVC approval process, approval from the selectmen came at lightning speed.

“I’ve heard from many folks who think this project is a really good shot in the arm,” chairman of the selectmen Walter Vail said. “As always there’s pros and cons, but I think the pros outweigh the cons, without question. That whole district is in terrible need. I’m frankly surprised the neighbors are in such strong opposition…. I congratulate you for hanging in there.”

“I’m very much in favor of this,” selectman Kathy Burton said. “I think it’s a great project and will be tremendous asset to this town.”

Several Oak Bluffs residents were on hand to voice their support. “I’d like to thank Mr. Dunn for this project,” Skip Finley said. “I worked at a bowling alley when I was a kid, and I played there and it kept me out of trouble. It’s amazing you’ve had to go to through all this. My thanks from my family and my friends.”

Attorney Ellen Kaplan of Edgartown, representing Judge Diane Streett, an abutting homeowner from Delaware, was the sole opponent present. She reiterated her objections relating to potential drunken behavior near a residential district and questioned Mr. Dunn’s assertion that he was building a “family place.” Ms. Kaplan requested the selectmen, if they approved the permit, to limit where alcohol could be sold and consumed.

She also cited the location of three churches within 500 feet of the bowling alley, which is contrary to town statute 16C, which says granting an alcohol license to a facility within 500 feet of churches is “detrimental to the spiritual functions of those communities.”

Ms. Burton and Mr. Vail did not agree with Ms. Kaplan’s topographical reckoning.

Ms. Kaplan also raised her previous argument that the bowling alley would place undo strain on town police. Police Chief Erik Blake said that with Mr. Dunn’s offer to make last call at 10:30 on weekdays and 11:30 on weekends, it would not be a problem.

Selectman Gail Barmakian asked Mr. Dunn to consider making last call at 10 pm on weekdays and 11 pm on weekends.

“I think you all know how hard it is to run a seasonal business on Martha’s Vineyard,” Mr. Dunn said. “Every time you shut down an avenue to make a profit it gets harder and harder…. We’ve made significant overtures to neighbors in terms of sound control. I think we’ve gone the last mile making gestures to the neighborhood.”

In a telephone call with The Times on Wednesday, Ms. Barmakian said she voted to abstain rather than vote against the approval, because she needed more information. “I support the project, but I’m not convinced the way the application was worded, that it was restricted enough to address some of the concerns of the neighbors,” she said.

Concert questions

In other business, Phil daRosa presented the selectmen with a proposal for day-long music and arts festival to be held on July 12, 2014, in Waban Park. Mr. daRosa, a musician and member of Dukes County Love Affair, said he had two production companies willing to get involved.

“But I can’t approach artists until I have a secure date,” he told selectmen.

Mr. daRosa said he chose the date in part because there’s typically a swoon in business on the Island the weekend after the fourth of July.

Ms. Barmakian, while endorsing the idea of a Waban Park festival, said the July date would be problematic, especially with crowd control and excessive noise that could adversely affect renters and seasonal residents staying in the vicinity of the park. She suggested Mr. daRosa consider a date in September.

Ms. Burton disagreed. “Don’t we talk about wanting to have events on summer weekends?” she asked. “I think it’s a wonderful event. Summer people would enjoy that.”

Selectman Greg Coogan agreed, noting that the main audience for the festival would be back at school in September.

Oak Bluffs police Sergeant Mike Marchand and Chief Erik Blake expressed concerns about security.

“To take an event like this, you need a fence around the whole place,” Sergeant Marchand said. “A proper police detail could cost tens of thousands of dollars.”

The selectmen suggested Mr. daRosa meet with police and come back with a new plan at their April 22 meeting.

Joe Sullivan from Daedalus Projects, project manager for the new town hall and fire station, said the website for the new projects is up and running and can be accessed via the Oak Bluffs town website.  Mr. Sullivan said questions or comments should be emailed to town administrator Robert Whritenour at rwhritenour@oakbluffsma.gov.

Correction: An earlier photo caption incorrectly reported Ms. Barmakian was the dissenting vote. Ms. Barmakian abstained from the vote.