Reynaldo Faust’s quest to get a beer and wine license took a turn for the worse after he was kicked out of an Oak Bluffs wastewater commission meeting Wednesday. The contentious meeting featured several heated exchanges, shouting, interruptions, and a threat to call the police.
On May 14, Faust received conditional approval from town selectmen for a beer and wine license, but is being denied final approval because the town building and wastewater departments have not signed off on his application.
Wednesday’s meeting began with Faust asking wastewater commissioner — and town selectman — Gail Barmakian to recuse herself because of a “sour” personal relationship between the two and an incident when Barmakian called the police on Faust’s daughter for serving food on the sidewalk in front of his restaurant.
“Ethically, you should recuse yourself, and you’re a lawyer, you know that more than anybody else,” Faust said.
Barmakian said as a selectman she can’t enforce bylaws, so she called the police to stop food from being served on the sidewalk. Faust asked Barmakian to recuse herself at the May 14 selectmen’s meeting for the same reason. While she did recuse herself from voting, she stayed to listen and ask questions.
“No one else has had to go in front of this commission … just for adding something to my menu,” Faust said.
“That’s not true,” Barmakian said. “This board has seen things where they’ve made people take tables out, they’ve made people take benches out, they don’t let them serve food because of flow issues that we have.”
The conversation quickly devolved into an argument with Barmakian and Faust shouting over and interrupting each other. Chairman Hans von Steiger interjected several times by slamming his gavel down to maintain order, and threatening to call the police.
“Let me give you a fair warning. Unless I get some civil behavior from you right now, and henceforth for the rest of this meeting, I’m going to call the police department and have you ejected,” Von Steiger said.
Faust said offering beer on his menu would in no way affect wastewater at his restaurant, but commissioners disagreed.
Barmakian said fast food restaurants are usually only takeout. She called Fat Ronnie’s a “hybrid” because it has seating, but no table service.
“The introduction of liquor is a little different because when people drink liquor … they sit down. It’s not fast in and out. They sit down, they’re more likely to use facilities … that’s why I’m assuming there’s more flow,” Barmakian said.
“People can walk out with a Coke. They need to drink wine and beer on the premises, which makes them stay longer,” Barmakian said.
“That is the craziest argument I’ve ever heard. People who drink soda leave, people who drink beer stay. That is the most cockamamie thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Faust said.
After continued argument, Von Steiger slammed his gavel down and kicked Faust out of the meeting.
The town’s wastewater department follows a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) table for commercial establishment wastewater flow, but the commission decides which category businesses fall under. The DEP classifies a fast food restaurant as needing 20 gallons of wastewater flow per seat per day, and a sit-down restaurant, with table service by waitstaff, as requiring 35 gallons of wastewater flow per seat per day.
Due to the classifications and the commission’s discretion in imposing them, Faust is caught in a Catch-22. Fat Ronnie’s currently falls under the “restaurant, fast food” category, but commissioners unanimously voted that if Faust received a beer and wine license, then his restaurant would be classified as a “restaurant,” resulting in a need for additional flow. Due to a town moratorium on allowing increased flow, Faust wouldn’t be able to have his license.
Commissioners then voted 2-0 that if it becomes a restaurant the flow should be under the limits. Barmakian abstained from that vote, because she would not decide whether the flow would increase, and wanted to see if the flow Faust currently has is accurate, or if it’s under the limit.
As Faust is trying to begin pouring beer and wine before the busy summer season, he is also having trouble with the building department, which said his bathroom is “not adequate.”
In a letter to selectmen on May 20, Eladio Gore, one of the town’s building inspectors, told selectmen, “it is my opinion that while the bathroom is functional for employees, is not adequate for public use.”
Gore added that his onsite visit determined the bathroom is only accessible by going through a storage area, up to the second floor, and traversing additional steps up and down.
State law does not require Faust’s bathroom to be handicap-accessible.
Faust said he supports the owners of Dos, the new Backyard Taco on Circuit Avenue, which received a full liquor license without requiring a handicap bathroom, but feels they received swift approval for a full bar while he is struggling to only serve beer.
“I just want to be held to the same standard,” Faust said told The Times. “Because I’m being held to a different standard … it saddens me.”
Building a handicap-accessible bathroom would not only be cost-prohibitive, but impossible because there would be no place to put it, according to Faust.
Gore told The Times he inspected the restaurant’s bathroom and determined it was not adequate for the restaurant’s patrons. He did not know about other bathrooms in the area, and could only speak to Fat Ronnie’s.
“I can’t speak to what happened in the past … I did what I was asked to do,” Gore said. “[Faust] has not been back since the inspection.”