Tisbury selectmen couldn’t toast to solidarity Tuesday night when they took up the topic of alcohol regulation hearings.
Simply scheduling the hearings proved divisive between Melinda Loberg, board chair, and selectman Jeff Kristal. After a failed attempt to bundle two alcohol regulation hearings for the same evening, the board separated them. In a 2-1 vote, the board opted to hold a Jan. 7 hearing on a town regulation that makes serving someone alcohol permissible only by also serving them a full meal. The board voted unanimously to hold a Dec. 3 hearing on one-day liquor licenses.
The board also filled the positions of emergency manager and assistant emergency manager, authorized Kristal to act as “marijuana czar” to work with town counsel and Patient Centric on a community host agreement, and approved $11,325 to cover the bill for salvaging the town’s harbor patrol boat.
Loberg made it clear the idea of tinkering with the meal requirement for alcohol service was raised by Kristal, and that she sees no urgency and little merit in the idea. Conversely, she said, in light of the Oyster Festival coming in May or “other potential proposals that might come before the town,” she felt one-day liquor licensing needed swift attention.
Among other refinements, Kristal proposed defining what a meal is, as the regulations that require a meal to be served with alcohol were made “years ago,” and may require updating to keep Tisbury economically competitive.
“We’re in competition with Oak Bluffs and Edagrtown, and while I don’t want to be a bar town, there’s still revenue we’re leaving on the table, [a] considerable amount of revenue,” he said.
He went on to say “it’s kind of embarrassing” that somebody, after a vacation, can’t have a beer before he or she leaves the Island from Vineyard Haven, and instead has to have dinner to have that beer. He made it clear he was interested in exploring modification of the food requirement alone, not tinkering with hours of operation or the ability to provide entertainment.
Loberg said the regulation states that “the service of alcoholic beverages be secondary to the primary purpose of service of food,” and that Kristal’s proposed modification would allow for salads, soups, and appetizers to constitute a meal.
“So I guess the implication is you can buy some soup or an appetizer to entitle you to buy a drink,” she said.
“You go to a movie, and you can leave the movie at 9 o’clock at night and walk in and have dessert … and have a glass of port wine, if you wish,” Kristal said.
Burrito shop owner Seth Gambino, who lost to Kristal in a bid for a seat on the board, expressed abhorrence at the proposed hearing: “What absolutely disgusts me about this whole thing is not the prospect of the residents being allowed a fair and unbiased or manipulated election in regards to our liquor sales, or the fact that we seem to hate our town so much that we will not be happy until you completely change it. No, what disturbs me to my core, is how you’ve gone about this, and the lies and action and intention that have brought us this far.”
Gambino went on to allude to a conspiracy afoot to transform Tisbury into Oak Bluffs, and instead of the board doing so via “lies and manipulation,” that it should be placed on a warrant article.
“Let’s put it out there to the people once and for all,” he said. “One article with no amendments or double talk. Forget about allowing liquor sales without a full meal, which we know is already happening anyway, and ask for everything — bars, nightclubs, live music venues, liquor stores, and anything else you can think of.”
Loberg tried to cut Gambino off, but he continued to talk over her. As she reached for her gavel, he stopped. She said his opinions should be expressed at the hearing being discussed, as opposed to the discussion of holding such a hearing.
Gambino exited the Katharine Cornell Theater with a loud slam of the door.
Returning to the subject, Loberg said she was reluctant to alter existing alcohol regulation “because we have so much on our plate now,” and also because “it’s a pretty controversial issue.” She also said she has promised to resist the “slippery slope” of alcohol regulation modification.
Kristal pressed to have both items at the same hearing. He pointed out that years ago, when alcohol returned to Tisbury, he never said the regulations wouldn’t evolve, and that it was incumbent on town leaders to show overburdened taxpayers that the board can multitask.
He advocated for holding a hearing immediately so the issue would be prepped for the annual town meeting.
“Mr. Gambino just told me that we should put it on,” he said.
“I don’t know if I’m buying that one,” selectman Jim Rogers said. “That’s another discussion — lots of pros and cons to that.”
Loberg declined to back combined hearings. “I think they are two separate issues, and I think they ought to be dealt with separately,” Loberg said. She went on to say she was against tinkering with the food requirement at all: “I made some promises, and I would not support continued loosening of our regulations, but that doesn’t mean you guys can’t find a way to have a public hearing.”
Rogers argued they would be separate issues, despite a unified hearing.
The board opted to segregate them in the end, with Loberg casting the one no vote on holding the modification hearing.
Sunken boat bill
Harbormaster John Crocker requested a reserve fund transfer to cover a pair of bills town administrator Jay Grande described as “salvaging of the harbormaster vessel.” That boat sank on Oct. 3 for reasons unknown.
The board voted unanimously to accept the transfer of $9,000 to Offshore Engineering and $2,325 to Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard.
Loberg asked if there will be an insurance payout.
“That, I understand, is still pending,” Grande said.
Rogers asked if the report from the marine surveyor is still pending too.
“That written report is still pending as well,” Grande said.
Rogers said he received an email indicating the report would be delivered that evening.
“Still not ready,” Crocker said.
All hail the marijuana czar
Marijuana entrepreneur Geoff Rose went before the board with his attorney Phil Silverman to discuss a draft host-community agreement for an adult-use outlet Rose plans to open at 15 Mechanic St. through his company, Patient Centric.
“I think at this point, between myself and counsel,” Rose said, “we’ve submitted what we believe to be an appropriate host-community agreement, and we certainly welcome any kind of dialogue and thoughts about any one of the components of the agreement.”
Grande said town counsel is still reviewing the agreement, and that one issue that has come up so far is the term of the “contract” and its renewal. It’s an area, he said, town counsel will need more time with.
Rose asked for more specifics on the subject.
“Just that it runs for a certain period of time and the idea is when that timeframe ends, where do we go from there?” Grande said.
But otherwise Grande described the Patient Centric application as so detailed that it “really didn’t leave any stone unturned, frankly.”
Silverman briefly walked the board through the agreement, and then told the board he’d conferred with town counsel and was confident any tweaks Tisbury requested could be plugged into the document for the next board meeting.
Grande asked for a board member to help with host agreement review. Kristal volunteered.
“Do I get a title?” Kristal asked.
“Marijuana czar,” Rogers said.
The board voted 2-0 to authorize Kristal to work with Grande on behalf of the town.
“Marijuana czar” Kristal immediately made a request of Rose and Silverman: “As you know, it’s pretty customary to open up an account so you guys can fund the account to help us progress with legal counsel on our end.” To that end, he asked Patient Centric for $5,000.
“OK,” Rose said.
In other business, the board appointed firefighter/EMT Micah Agnoli as Tisbury emergency manager and Chilmark Fire Lt. Christina Colarusso as assistant emergency manager. Agnoli, a Vineyard Vision fellow, serves as an Edgartown and Tisbury EMT and an Edgartown firefighter and assistant emergency manager. Colarusso, a Massachusetts Maritime engineering graduate, works as a facilities operator at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport wastewater plant.