Updated June 17
Oak Bluffs selectmen voted to block Circuit Avenue and Kennebec Avenue from vehicle traffic on Sundays from 10 am to 10 pm, to allow restaurants and retail shops to use sidewalk and street space.
The Sunday street closures will begin June 21 and end on Sept. 6, giving already struggling businesses a new outlet to serve customers. Businesses on both streets will be able to use up to seven feet of space in front of their businesses to place tables for retail or outdoor dining.
“That’s what we’re asking you all to do, is to think outside the box for a minute and help us get to the finish line,” Larkin Stallings, Ritz owner and street closure advocate, said.
After weighing options on timing, selectmen stuck with the 10 am to 10 pm closure. Police Sgt. Michael Marchand said logistically, having a street closure at 10 am would actually begin at 8:30 am, as police blocked off the streets and waited for any remaining parked cars to move.
Signage will also be created to notify people of the Sunday street closures.
Erin Tiernan, who owns Basics and was another advocate for the closure, said one of the keys to success was allowing retail to be included.
While there was plenty of support for the project, others said barring cars and parking from the street would hurt their businesses.
Tim Doble, co-owner of Mocha Mott’s, told selectmen the street closure would significantly hurt his coffee shop, and asked that it be pushed back an hour, but selectmen stuck to 10 am. “This proposal is a loser for us. Our business is an in-and-out business. We rely on the parking spots and the people coming in and out quickly,” Doble said. “It will definitely negatively impact our business.”
Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association executive director CJ Rivard expressed concerns of Campground residents and visitors, particularly with noise, parking, and traffic flow.
“There were issues last year with windows being open and the inside noise going outside,” Rivard said. “Cars that drive up that street have to go somewhere.”
Phillip’s Hardware and Reliable Market were opposed to the original proposal to close the street for the whole weekend, but are in support of the Sunday only closure.
The decision is an experimental one, that selectmen said they would monitor each week and alter depending on how the street closure works out.
“We can always tweak this, it’s one day out of the week,” selectman Greg Coogan said. “We’re trying to do something to keep commerce on those streets.”
Oak Bluffs Association Christine Todd said she was proud to be from Oak Bluffs, and was happy with how so many businesses came together. “We’re trying to have a chance to see what we can do as a community,” Todd said.
The street closure approval came after the town approved Dos Mas, MV Salads, and Red Cat, among others, for outdoor dining on their properties.
Selectmen also approved a request from the YMCA and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival to hold four drive-in movie screenings a week in the parking lot at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena.
The parking lot can accommodate 40 to 50 vehicles, and all movies will be family-friendly. Screenings will run from July through August.
Updated to show Phillip’s Hardware and Reliable Markets support for Sunday street closures. — Ed.