Oak Bluffs selectmen vote to make Canonicus Ave. one-way

Traffic will flow inland from Seaview Ave. beginning Wednesday.

Departing Oak Bluffs chairman of the selectmen Kathy Burton.

Oak Bluffs selectmen set an endurance record that will likely stand for some time, after their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday went for nearly five hours. After interviewing the final candidates for the Council on Aging administrator position, the board conducted two public hearings, and, after almost postponing a repeatedly postponed vote, finally decided to make Canonicus Avenue a one-way street on a trial basis.

Two years for one-way vote

Michael Santoro, who was recently voted board chairman and is also chairman of the roads and byways committee, was not at the meeting due to travel delays, prompting discussion to delay the Canonicus vote once again. Discussions and hearings for the change go back two years, and the final vote was delayed by a blizzard in early February, and again in March to allow for more neighborhood outreach. Due to Mr. Santoro’s absence, Selectmen Kathy Burton and Walter Vail considered delaying the vote once again, but Selectman Greg Coogan strongly opposed further delay.

Almost on cue, Police Chief Erik Blake notified the selectmen that he’d just received a text from Mr. Santoro asking the selectmen to go ahead with the vote.

Mr. Vail steadfastly opposed the change. “I sympathize with the neighbors, and I understand the speeding issues, but I haven’t gotten the overwhelming feeling that this is the right thing to do,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve looked closely enough at what the unintended consequences might be.”

Local residents have described Canonicus Avenue as a tragedy waiting to happen, because cars and trucks often use the road as a shortcut to or around downtown, and often travel at high speeds around two blind curves.

Ms. Burton said she’s been on the fence about the change since the debate began. “Originally I felt the way Walter does, that curve is really dangerous,” she said. “We also don’t know how this is going to affect Nantucket [Avenue].

“This has gone on for a couple of years; I think we should give it a try,” Mr. Coogan said. “We can do it on a trial basis; if it doesn’t work, we change it back. But we have to get it in place now for the summer.”

“The local community came to us to make this change,” Police Chief Erik Blake said. “I agree we should do this on a trial basis. We may find that people go even faster. The traffic studies will tell the tale.”

Selectmen approved the temporary change 2 -1. Ms. Barmakian recused herself because she owns property on Canonicus Avenue.

Highway Department Supervisor Richard Combra said the change will go into effect Wednesday, May 20.

LoFT gets a warning

Continuing a public hearing from their last meeting, selectmen weighed the fate of LoFT, the bar and adult game room on the second floor of the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Co. that was cited with nine infractions on a spot check made by Oak Bluffs Police Detective James Morse in late March, shortly after the grand opening.

Most of the infractions were due to permitting issues. In his report, Detective Morse cited LoFt for not having a change-of-use permit. Before its current incarnation as an adult game room with full bar and food service, LoFt had been a concert venue for three years.

“This was not a case of ‘we’ll build and take care of things later,’” attorney Sean Murphy told selectmen. Mr. Murphy was representing building owners Mike and Mark Wallace, principals of C Vivor LLC, and proprietor J.B. Blau. “It was not intended to slip under the radar or avoid permitting requirements.”

Other permitting infractions in Detective Morse’s report included incomplete entertainment-license application, failure to post occupancy load, failure to post fire-inspection certificate, failure to post OUI warning signs, failure to apply for new occupancy permit, and six counts of unlicensed pool tables. Many of the permitting infractions were addressed before Tuesday night’s hearing, Detective Morse told selectmen.

The alteration-of-premises permit and entertainment license are the two unresolved permitting infractions. Selectman Walter Vail questioned if LoFT should be allowed to operate until the permits are issued. “I’m so surprised you did this,” he said. “You know the rules in town.”

“We were under the assumption that Dreamland [the permit] was operational,” Mr. Blau said. “We didn’t realize it rose to this level.”

“All due respect, it was a case of ‘we did it and now we’re asking forgiveness,’” Chief Erik Blake said. “Those things should have been in place.”

There were two infractions for alcohol served to impaired patrons. Detective Morse also noted that the manager eventually asked both patrons to leave.

“Our opening had a far greater response than we anticipated,” Mr. Blau said. “We didn’t have enough bartenders or security. We immediately hired more people.”

Detective Morse also cited LoFT for serving one person a pitcher of beer, or “service of malt by pitcher to less than two persons.”

Mr. Murphy told selectmen the proprietors also hired a consultant, and the entire staff was recertified in TIPS [Training and Intervention Procedures for Servers of Alcohol]. “They understand these are important violations,” Mr. Murphy said. “They have stayed on top of the staff. They’ve doubled the number of bartenders and security.”

Selectman Gail Barmakian took Mr. Wallace to task for lack of disabled access to LoFT. “The application to the Architectural Access Board was supposed to happen three years ago,” she said. “It’s a great place, but it really bothers me that somebody that’s handicapped can’t get in there.”

Building inspector Mark Barbadoro told selectmen his concerns — strengthening the back deck and back stairs, and raising the guard rail — had been addressed. “The fire chief is happy with it,” Mr. Barbadoro said. “If he were here today, they’d have the C.O. [certificate of occupancy]. When he gets back tomorrow, we’ll sign it.”

Mr. Vail said he was inclined to shut down LoFT for one week, but that given the time of year, a warning was the most appropriate course of action.

Selectmen agreed, with a 4-0 vote, to give LoFT a warning, and to allow the establishment to stay open. The warning will also be filed with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC).

“We absolutely dropped the ball and for the record, I’ll take the brunt,” Mr. Blau said. “We have no animosity, no frustration. This was a good thing. In a weird way I’m saying thank you.”