The person who brought Beach Road Weekend to the Island last summer is looking at an innovative idea he thinks might help the Island’s struggling restaurant industry.
In an email blast sent out Friday, Adam Esptein, CEO of Innovation Arts & Entertainment, wrote that he is exploring the idea of offering al fresco dining in Vineyard Haven’s Veterans Memorial Park — the same venue he used for Beach Road Weekend. He’s calling it the Vineyard Social.
“[The] immediate need is gauging interest, especially by the Island’s restaurant industry [and] by private chefs/caterers now offering curated meals for at-home enjoyment,” the email sent out by Epstein states.
In a brief conversation about the concept, Epstein said many of the Vineyard Haven restaurants have no room to provide outdoor dining. “This would give them that opportunity,” he said.
Meals would be served during fixed seating times, which would allow restaurants to plan and deliver meals to the site, he said.
The topic is on the board of selectmen’s agenda in Tisbury for Tuesday night. Previously, selectmen have discussed the idea of closing off part of Main Street for outdoor dining, but that idea hasn’t gained much traction.
Tisbury board of selectmen chair Melinda Loberg said ideas have been floated to use either Owen Park or Veterans Memorial Park to help the town’s restaurants. “We spoke about it briefly. I haven’t heard any specific proposal,” she said. “There’s a lot of logistics and details to work out.”
Selectman Jeff Kristal said he loves the idea. He said while the park is typically used for softball and soccer leagues, those aren’t allowed under the governor’s guidelines.
“This is not summer as usual. This is an out-of-the-box idea,” Kristal said. “I applaud Adam and anyone else who steps forward with this kind of innovative idea.”
The concept is to set up 50 to 100 18-by-18 foot semi-private dining sites surrounded by low-profile picket fences. Tents would be on hand for inclement weather and another tent would act as a final staging area for meals.
The goal is to “create a COVID safe outdoor dining experience for restaurants to offer to their customers” and a “social experience in Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven for local residents and summer visitors to enjoy al fresco dining,” the email states.
Other ideas include a small stage for musicians to provide music and movie screens to show films, the email states. A bar and beverage station would be available as well.
“The summer of 2020 is shaping up to be the most unique in memory. COVID-19 has forced all of us into a long bout of isolation, deprived of the most basic social experiences. It is only natural for humans to want to come together and participate in shared social experience. We are tribal by nature. Community is as nourishing for the soul as a meal is for the body. After three months of having been cooped up, it’s hard to imagine an entire summer without an opportunity to share meals together as a community outside of our homes,” the email states. “It is also very unfortunate that at the same time, the restaurant industry is struggling to survive. We empathize greatly with our brothers and sisters who run restaurants. Like us in live events where we bring together crowds en masse to enjoy entertainment, restaurants have been deeply affected by new regulations and are hard-pressed to flourish in a take-out only model. In order to run a profitable business, most restaurants rely upon an in-person dining experience that offers an opportunity to serve and cater to their customers. An experience that most look forward to and relish quite often — especially during the summer months.”