Tisbury restaurants drink up victory

Jane Carroll helps Tisbury voters check in at the polls on Tuesday. - Stacey Rupolo

Updated Wednesday May 10

Voters decided to expand beer and wine licenses to include liquor for restaurants. Melinda Loberg will continue as a selectman, and Hillary Conklin will remain as the Tisbury town clerk.

People continued to line Spring Street as the polls neared closing on a chilly May night in Tisbury where 1,261 votes were cast, 37 percent of the town’s 3,434 registered voters.

In a vote of 769-475, voters approved Question 1, allowing hard alcohol for restaurants that are currently allowed to sell beer and wine. Tisbury could issue a total of 19 restaurant permits, although only a handful of restaurants now operate in the town. Permitted restaurants must have seating for no fewer than 30, and beverages must be consumed with meals, a requirement that would not change if the licenses included liquor sales, selectmen said.

Jon Blau, owner of Copper Wok in Vineyard Haven, said he looks forward to the transition. Tisbury will be closer to a level playing field with other towns, he said. He has been an Island business owner for more than two decades. Along with Copper Wok, he owns Sharky’s Cantina in both Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, and Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Co. and the Loft in Oak Bluffs.

“We’re excited the town saw that the responsible progression to adding spirits would be a benefit for townspeople, visitors, restaurants, their staff, and anybody dining out in town or shopping in town,” Mr. Blau told The Times on Wednesday.

The transition is a fairly simple process, a “change of category” for licenses, which the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) handles, according to Mr. Blau. Restaurants can start the process now, and Mr. Blau estimated that they could start serving liquor before the peak of the season — maybe in four to six weeks — assuming “the town will work in good faith to get it expedited,” he said.

In January, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation to expand current beer and wine licenses for restaurants in Tisbury to offer the sale of liquor. Tisbury selectmen voted in February to put the question to voters on a townwide ballot.

In a race for selectman, Ms. Loberg held onto her office over Jim Rogers by a vote of 687-519. Ms. Loberg was the chairman of the Tisbury board of selectmen, and was there as the polls closed with her husband, Michael Loberg, and Penny, their Labrador retriever.

“I’m really amazed by the support that came out for me,” Ms. Loberg told The Times on Wednesday. She hopes the town can find a way to get Mr. Rogers involved, and said he has “a lot to offer.”

“It’s encouraging to be able to go back to work and keep on doing the things we’re trying to do, that we were sort of in the middle of,” Ms. Loberg said.

Ms. Loberg worked as a family and adolescent therapist before retiring to the Vineyard, has volunteered as an EMT in Tisbury, and served on the board of directors at Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard and Tisbury Waterways. She has been invested in town water quality, which led to her involvement in the harbor management committee and wastewater committee.

Mr. Rogers, who will resign as the assistant fire chief of Tisbury in October, said although he was disappointed, he plans to stay involved to help guide the direction of Tisbury’s future.

“I’m not giving up,” Mr. Rogers said.

He is thankful for the people who campaigned for him, and thankful for all the people who went to the polls and voted. “The system only works if people participate,” he said.

By a vote of 864-327, Ms. Conklin kept her post as town clerk over a challenge by Joseph McCarthy. The 32-hour-per-week position has an annual salary of $90,703.

Ms. Conklin told The Times on Wednesday that she was looking forward to continue her work as town clerk. She moved to the Island in 1985 and began working at the Tisbury Town Hall in 1997, after leaving the Edgartown National Bank. She began her training as administrative secretary for the board of selectmen, and remained in that position until 2014, when she was elected as town clerk after Marion Mudge, who was the town clerk for 30 years, retired.

Tisbury voters responded to two nonbinding questions on the ballot. Voters were in favor of establishing a regional housing bank, 857-346. They also were overwhelmingly in favor of banning rental mopeds from the Island, 1068-162.