Alchemy proposes outdoor dining on courthouse lawn

Courthouse may use tables and chairs to stage people outside before hearings.

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Alchemy Bistro & Bar is looking to use the Edgartown courthouse lawn for an expanded outdoor dining operation. - Lucas Thors

Alchemy Bistro & Bar is proposing outdoor dining on the Edgartown courthouse lawn as an extension of its existing outside operation.

At a Dukes County Commissioners meeting Wednesday, commissioners unofficially approved an application by Alchemy, a gourmet restaurant directly adjacent to the courthouse, to place 17 tables on the lawn in order to accommodate 62 additional guests.

Commissioners will vote to officially approve the proposal at their meeting next week. 

According to Dukes County manager Martina Thornton, the courthouse lawn would be an ideal location for an extension of Alchemy’s outdoor seating. Because Alchemy will be serving dinner after the courthouse is closed, there will be no scheduling conflicts. 

“As long as it is after-hours and the courts have expressed interest, that was my only concern,” Thornton said. “They would not start until the courts are done, and would set up and break down the equipment every night.”

Thornton said that the outdoor dining could be mutually beneficial, because the court could utilize the equipment for staging people outside the courthouse. Once the courthouse reopens, there will be a maximum occupancy restriction, and the tables and chairs outside can be used as a waiting space for people who are about to be seen by a judge.

“They [the court] would have to come up with their own procedures for sanitizing,” Thornton said. 

Curbside pickup will continue at Alchemy for the duration of its outdoor dining experience, and the existing seating in front of the restaurant will remain available for customers.

According to the proposal, Alchemy will station at least one manager on the extended premises at all times. And while the courthouse lawn is already largely enclosed by natural and pre-existing barriers, Alchemy has said it will provide additional roping and potted plants if necessary. All tables will be spaced six feet from one another, and Thornton said the process of sanitizing and preparing tables for the next party will have to be fully fleshed out by the restaurant. Alchemy has also drafted entrance and exit routes for customers, and at least four sanitation stations with hand sanitizer and garbage receptacles will be placed throughout the area. Alchemy has also proposed a staff-only pathway and sanitation station. 

Commissioner Keith Chatinover said he likes the idea of encouraging outdoor dining and supporting Island businesses, so long as the operation is safe and secure. 

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I don’t see any way this can be negative as long as proper procedures are followed,” Chatinover said. “I love the idea of folks being able to have a nice meal outside.”

Chatinover said he would be willing to do a site visit with Thornton to assess the situation, and agreed with her that as long as the restaurant business does not interfere with court proceedings, the idea could work out well.

Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty said that the Alchemy plan is modeled after outdoor dining practices and policies from towns on the Cape. Hagerty said the town hopes to have the outdoor dining for Alchemy in operation by the end of July “at the very latest.”

Approximately $5 million in state aid is available for outdoor dining initiatives in Massachusetts, and Hagerty said Edgartown has applied for $20,000 of those funds based on the town’s needs, including barriers or other safety measures. 

In other business, airport officials have been working with the county on the overhead allocation model for paying the county treasurer for any services provided to the airport. Dukes County treasurer Ann Metcalf said the plan is to use the old Powers & Sullivan model, and update it to align with the current situation at the treasurer’s office. 

Historically, the county treasurer has handled a large portion of the airport’s accounting, but now those services are being brought in-house, so the payment model needs to change.

Initially, the County Advisory Board had approved $5,000 to pay Powers & Sullivan to create a brand-new model, but commissioner Leon Brathwaite said updating the old model will save the county money. 

Airport commissioner Richard Knabel reminded the county commissioners that the model would have to go through the Airport Commission approval process before being submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for review.