Second beer fest brewing in Oak Bluffs

Selectmen lean toward approval, but demand concrete details, citing last year’s shoddy planning

Last year's Martha's Vineyard Craft Beer Festival had 150 different beers but only a few portable toilets.

The second annual Martha’s Vineyard Craft Beer Festival may take place on the weekend of Sept. 22 at Waban-Alley Park, if organizers can prove it won’t be as poorly run as last year’s festival at Washington Park.

Oraibi Voumard, standing in for organizer Erin Bayer Santos, who was in Florida, faced a fusillade of criticism from the board over last year’s event, which drew more people than expected, and was short on portable toilets, food, and security detail.

“I think one of the issues we had at the last one was that it was held at the wrong park,” chairman Kathy Burton said, to the agreement of the board.

“It was the most unorganized event this town has ever seen,” selectman Mike Santoro said. He said one of many promises broken by Ms. Santos was the timely notification of abutters of Washington Park, which consisted of a notice delivered a week before the event. “Erin made us look bad. We got a lot of heat for that.”

Mr. Santoro also criticized Ms. Bayer Santos for not attending Tuesday’s meeting. Mr. Voumard said she had recently had a baby and was unable to travel.

Regarding the quality of off-Island security that was provided, Chief Erik Blake said, “I wouldn’t let them walk my dog.” Chief Blake also noted that his department was only recently paid the detail fee for the event, which was also the case with the fire department.

Mr. Santoro expressed skepticism about the level of organization for this year’s proposed event, given that Mr. Voumard was just now going before the board. “It’s July 1, the event is in September, now you’re telling us this is going to go off without a hitch?” he said.

Selectman Brian Packish said he was irked that he’d already seen the event advertised on Facebook without town approval. “I’m a big fan of off-season events. I like that it’s in September,” he said. “I’m not prepared to vote until I hear what people have to say; until I hear that, I don’t know what conditions I want to apply.” Mr. Packish said he wanted to hear from park abutters and relevant town departments so the approval, if given, would be very specific.

Across the board, selectmen stated the details presented Tuesday night were insufficient to consider approving the liquor permit.

Selectman Gail Barmakian, the staunchest critic of the proposed event, said she was concerned about drunken people ambling into private yards.

“There were lots of drunk people at Washington Park, and they were confined in a small space. Now that they’re in a larger space, they’re going to venture out.”

Ms. Barmakian also expressed concern about the amplified music, and asked if music needed to be amplified: “The stage seems to be targeted to one side of the park.” She suggested a sound barrier of some sort be devised.

Four local bands and a DJ are scheduled to play, according to Mr. Voumard.

“It is an open-air festival in the afternoon; you can’t expect people not to have amplification. It is what it is,” selectman Greg Coogan said. “The one thing I will agree with is that Erin is totally disorganized. For a slightly different twist of the coin here, it was a very successful event, and a lot of people came here.” Mr. Coogan said he observed last year’s event in the company of Oak Bluffs Police Sergeant Michael Marchand, and he thought “there was a lot of exaggeration” about problems that arose.
Parks commissioner Amy Billings said she was confident her department could work out the details with the organizers, and also thought some concerns were overstated. “I didn’t see drunk people all over the place,” she said. Ms. Billings noted that the board of health also has to sign off on the event, which includes approving the number of portable toilets.

“I don’t think anyone here is against it; we just don’t want it to be as haphazard as last year,” Mr. Coogan said.

“This could have a great future if it’s done right,” Mr. Packish said.

Selectmen asked Mr. Voumard to come back with a more detailed plan at their meeting on Tuesday, July 11, when they will consider a vote.

Land and Wharf under fire again

In other business, the hoodwinked theme continued when selectmen said they also felt duped by Dockside Inn owner John Tiernan when they approved a municipal street license for Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Co. Tours after his presentation in January. The discussion was a carryover from a June 13 meeting.

At issue is the turf war in the Circuit Avenue Extension area for parking spaces among tour companies, taxis, and private citizens, which has been exacerbated by the four 15-passenger vans owned by Land and Wharf.

“John sold us that the vans would be parked at his house and go to the hotel as needed,” Mr. Santoro said.

“We’ve received a lot of complaints and a lot of communication,” Ms. Burton said.

“I feel like what we were OKing was a livery license,” Ms. Barmakian said. “If not, then John’s soft-shoe was amazing.”

Alice Butler, assistant to town administrator Robert Whritenour, said the board approved a street license, allowing the company’s vehicles to take tours through the town, not a livery license, which would have made parking more restricted.

“When John sent in the proposal, he said it was to service the clients of the hotels,” Ms. Barmakian said, adding that there have been many complaints that the vans are taking public parking spots in traffic-heavy areas in Oak Bluffs, particularly near the Steamship terminal.

Chief Blake said the vans were often parked in spaces outside the police station. “It’s legal, but I get a lot of complaints about it, especially when the boats come in,” he said.

Caleb Caldwell, co-owner of the Land and Wharf Co. with Mr. Tiernan, apologized for the confusion. He said the tour company would not be economically viable if it served just hotel guests.

Mr. Caldwell said the company was granted a state license for private tours, and a license to sell tour tickets to the public. Selectmen contend they were misled in approving the street municipal license, which was a prerequisite to the state license approval.

Other tour companies, including Island Transportation, also take issue with the modus operandi of Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Co. Tours. “They’re using the 15-minute parking and treating it as their own,” owner Scott Dario said. “Contractually, we [Island Transport and other touring companies] pay the town to park, but they do not, and I do not feel it is fair they park wherever they want in public domain.”

Mr. Packish pointed out that the Dockside Inn was approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission under the condition it had nine parking spaces. It currently has six.

Advertising has also been a bone of contention with the Land and Wharf Co., which has been putting sandwich board signs on town property, and earlier in the month employed a lobster-costumed barker. Mr. Caldwell said the lobster barker was an experiment. “Business was really good that day,” he said. “We still own it, but we put it away.”

“Any signage associated with the Land and Wharf Co. has not been approved,” Mr. Packish said.

Selectmen noted that nonpermitted signs were popping up all over the business district, and merchants were also putting their wares on town property with increasing regularity. The board agreed that town bylaw amendments may be in order for the special town meeting in November.

Selectmen decided to speak with town counsel about the proper licensing required for the tour company.

“The look is professional and the vans look awesome,” Mr. Santoro said. “If you had done what John said you would, you wouldn’t be here. It’s a shame we have to sit here.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Dario wrote The Times, “As we speak, the vans are still parked down in public spaces, the signs haven’t come down, and they still put the van down at Dockside.”


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