Tisbury board won’t back Black Dog license

Selectmen delay action on moped and liquor regulations.

The Black Dog is facing a backlash after its owners called for rally at Five Corners to reopen Martha's Vineyard. - File photo

The Black Dog Bakery and Cafe isn’t budging on how it operates, and the Tisbury board of selectmen aren’t budging on how they’d like to see hard alcohol served at town restaurants.

The stalemate is likely to result in the Black Dog’s State Road location being unable to serve hard alcohol anytime soon.

At a continuation of the public hearing Tuesday, board members remained unsatisfied with the restaurant’s operation, which has customers order at a counter, with servers delivering food and beverages to the table.

“Every other restaurant in town, people sit at a table and a waiter or waitress approaches them,” selectman Tristan Israel said, noting that’s the intent of all-alcohol regulations. “We’re trying to avoid the bar approach.”

The exchange between Mr. Israel and Robert Douglas Jr., the Black Dog’s chief executive, got heated at times, with Mr. Douglas saying it’s not as simple as changing the bakery and cafe’s business model.

“I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business,” Mr. Israel said.

“Sounds like it, though,” Mr. Douglas responded.

At a meeting last week, the board had asked Black Dog to return with a plan on how it would serve alcohol in the restaurant, but Mr. Douglas and Laura Beckham, the cafe’s chef and manager, returned saying they intended to operate the way they do now serving beer and wine.

Selectman Melinda Loberg pointed out that the board has also received noise complaints from neighbors.

Board members stopped short of rejecting the all-alcohol license to give town administrator Jay Grande time to consult with the town’s attorney. The Black Dog hearing continues on June 27.

Earlier in the meeting, the board also postponed action on local regulations for the all-alcohol licenses, again to give Mr. Grande time to research whether allowing restaurants to begin serving alcohol on weekend mornings at 10 am requires town meeting approval.

While several business owners told the board it’s a local decision, selectmen wanted certainty.

The board continued that hearing until next Tuesday. Among the other considerations in the liquor regulations is an increase in the application fee to $3,000 per year. A beer and wine license would still cost $2,500.

If it seems like postponing action was a theme, well, it was. The board also delayed a final vote on amendments to the town’s moped regulations until July 11, to give Mr. Grande time to meet with building inspector Kenneth Barwick and Police Chief Daniel Hanavan to determine how regulations will be enforced.

The town’s attorney is recommending that any violation of the town’s regulation be set at $300 per incident, rather than the graduated scale suggested by chairman Larry Gomez. After three violations, the board would have the option to suspend a license, according to the regulations.

Jason Leone, owner of the town’s one moped rental business, was not at Tuesday’s hearing, though opponents of mopeds were in attendance.

Sam Feldman said the amount of fines might not be a deterrent because moped rentals are $100 a day. “A fine is three moped rentals,” he said.

Nicole Brisson, a member of Mopeds Are Dangerous Action Committee, called on the town to enforce the conditions placed on Mr. Leone’s license renewal, like weight restrictions and use of proper footwear. “What is the commitment of this board, this town or police, to make sure there is safety?” she said.

Mr. Israel sympathized, saying the town is trying to promulgate regulations that have some teeth. “I hate mopeds. I wish they weren’t on the Island at all,” he said.

In other business, selectmen voted to hold a public hearing on proposed beach regulations. One of the things the regulations target is beach fires. While fires are still allowed, they’ll be limited to cook fires, and Fire Chief John Schilling has been asked, on the suggestion of Ms. Loberg, to look at possible receptacles the town could purchase to have charcoal dumped for proper disposal.

The board agreed to pay employees about to lose vacation time at the end of June a total of $25,000 on the recommendation of the town’s personnel board. While agreeing to the payout, board members said it should be clear to employees in the future that they need to “use it or lose it,” Mr. Israel said.

Mr. Barwick, one of those employees, pointed out that if he takes a vacation, no one is available to issue building permits or do inspections. “If the building inspector walks out, the office is closed, essentially,” he said.

Speaking of building inspectors, selectmen agreed to have Edgartown building inspector Leonard Jason help with early permitting work on the new Martha’s Vineyard Museum proposed in Tisbury. Mr. Barwick has a potential conflict because he owns land near the former Marine Hospital.

Board members agreed they need to work out cooperative agreements with other towns to cover offices like the building inspector either when there are conflicts or someone takes vacation.

A public hearing on a proposed food truck to be located at 43 Main St. was put on hold until June 27. Board members said the town needs to come up with rules for food trucks to help guide the discussion of the proposal, though this delay had more to do with the food truck still needing permits from other town boards.

Food could be on the menu at Vineyard Haven Business Association “First Friday” events. Selectmen approved a 4 pm start time for the monthly events, and gave a thumbs-up to serving light food, so long as the vendors can get approval from other town boards.