It took some convincing, but Oak Bluffs selectmen approved a request to allow restaurants and bars to serve alcohol until 1:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays in July and August.
Restaurant and bar owners J.B. Blau, Jordan Wallace, and Larkin Stallings made their case to selectmen for the extension, saying it was vital to their businesses to make as much money in the small window of the summer months. They also saw support from musicians and residents.
“I think that we have a very short season, and it’s getting shorter, and it also seems people aren’t coming over during the week like they used to in droves,” Wallace said.
Stallings, who owns the Ritz Cafe, agreed. He said for three months in the winter he loses money, and depends on the summer income so he can operate year-round. “It’s a short window,” Stallings said.
The approval is on a trial basis. Selectmen raised concerns about noise complaints, people walking through the residential Campground area, and having more people coming from Edgartown.
“The increment is very small, but at some point in time there’s a tipping point. I have an issue with it,” selectman Gail Barmakian said.
Police Chief Erik Blake said it was a matter of having the right amount of police on the streets during shift changes.
He did not have an issue with the extended half-hour, but was concerned about paying officers who work the 4 pm to 2 am shift, and are getting overtime while crowds leave the bars.
“It’s possible for us to do it as long as the understanding is there that I can approach you at any time and say this isn’t working,” Blake said.
“It’s going to cost the town more money. There’s no doubt about that,” Barmakian said.
Despite concerns, selectmen approved the extension. Selectman Mike Santoro, who owns restaurants in town, abstained.
“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We’re resigned to that, and we understand that,” Blau said.
Selectman Jason Balboni floated the idea of an entry cutoff time, but Blake said it wasn’t a good idea. “It helped disperse the crowds waiting around, but it didn’t help with the people that kept trying to sneak back in, or they started a fight outside because they wanted to get back in,” Blake said.
In other business, selectmen appointed Garrett Albiston as a part-time deputy shellfish constable. Albiston was a finalist for the full-time deputy shellfish position at the selectmen’s last meeting.
Selectmen also approved 508 Multisport to hold part of the Martha’s Vineyard 20-Miler and Amity Island Relay on Feb. 15, 2020; All Star Tours & Transportation of Martha’s Vineyard to use streets in town for sightseeing; and a one-day beer and wine license for the Sankofa Festival of African American Literature and Culture on Aug. 2 at the Oak Bluffs Public Library.