Fired-up board says no to Vineyard Grocer

Business owner, an immigrant, calls the board’s decision racist.

The Tisbury select board approved a common victualer's license for Vineyard Grocer citing the delays in the owner complying with town regulations. - Rich Saltzberg

Vineyard Grocer will have to stop serving prepared foods, at least temporarily.

On Tuesday night, in a meeting that lasted more than three hours, the Tisbury select board heard from town administrator Jay Grande that the store finally had its fire suspension system installed, operational, and inspected.

At issue was a common victualer’s license that the board first started discussing at a public hearing May 18. At that time, the board learned that Vineyard Grocer owner Elio Silva had never obtained that permit to sell prepared foods. With the fire system not ready to be inspected, the board stopped short of making a conditional approval at the time on the advice of then-Fire Chief John Schilling.

The board continued the public hearing several more times, and then Tuesday showed their frustration with Silva, who wasn’t present at the Zoom meeting.

“We gave them two years to straighten out a fire safety issue. It’s just unfathomable,” selectman Jeff Kristal said.

Board members Larry Gomez and chairman Jim Rogers agreed.

Kristal made a motion to approve the common victualer’s license, then surprised his colleagues by voting no. “There was a fire right behind that building,” he said. “We have a hard time getting these people to the table to talk about anything. Business owners should be readily available to talk about anything … These owners need to be present.” 

Select board member Larry Gomez joined him. “I was hesitant to say no, but I will say no because this is one way to prove a point,” he said.

Chair Jim Rogers also voted no, and said Silva could exercise his right to appeal.

“Oh, that sucks,” a stunned Silva told The Times as he learned about the board’s vote for the first time Wednesday morning. “I think it’s somewhat racist.”

Pressed on whether he really felt it was racist, Silva said, “How many other businesses are they shutting down? That’s how I feel.”

He went on to say that both Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are doing more to help businesses hurt by the pandemic. He pointed out that a request he made for a spot to be set aside for curbside pickup at his Main Street business was denied. “I’ve been in business my whole life. I don’t see problems. I only see challenges. It’s a big deal. I know my rights, and I’ve done everything. They’re putting a burden on me. They should have made an example out of the landlord, and not me.”

Silva said it should have been the landlord’s responsibility to put in the fire suppression system, but he did it at his own expense. 

Kristal, responding to Silva’s comments, said the decision is not about race. “I don’t know how it would be racist,” Kristal said, reiterating that the issue has lingered for three months since the initial public hearing, and noting the proper system hasn’t been in place for two years. 

Asked why he voted to deny the license now that Silva’s complied, Kristal said it’s about process. “Communication is the big key here,” he said. “The town has communicated with business owners, and everyone has responded in a timely and responsible manner.”

Asked why he wasn’t on the Zoom call, Silva said he “f___ed up” and thought the hearing was last week. He didn’t realize it was on last night’s agenda.

Silva said he plans to appeal, and will put the matter in the hands of his attorney.

Kristal said he would urge Silva to contact Grande instead, to see how the issue could be rectified without lawyers involved. It’s unclear what the appeal process is.

In an email, Grande said he’s unsure of the appeal process because it’s the first time a board has ever rejected a common victualer’s license.

Shellfish, sewers, and finance committee

Members of the board also expressed frustration that the state Division of Marine Fisheries rejected one aquaculture farm on Lake Tashmoo that is proposed by Noah Mayrand, and then made an impromptu visit to a site on Lagoon Pond that’s been licensed to Jeff Canha, but hasn’t yet been turned over to the state for review.

Mayrand’s site was rejected because of the presence of eelgrass, shellfish constable Danielle Ewart told the board. She said state regulators were also concerned with how close the proposed area is to transient boats that anchor overnight at Tashmoo.

“She said that’s a no-go,” Ewart said of the woman in charge of reviewing the permit site. She said Mayrand would have to reapply, though it was unclear if he would have to start from scratch.

Members of the board scolded Ewart for not alerting harbormaster John Crocker to the state’s visit. “I’m surprised you didn’t let him know this was happening … You’re jeopardizing profitable business,” Gomez said. “We have to move faster and let these businesses operate.”

Board members insisted that Ewart and Crocker work together with the applicants to find a way to move these projects forward.

An exasperated Canha said he’s spent $10,000 toward his aquaculture farm that’s licensed in the Lagoon, but a dispute with an abutter remains unresolved.

“It’s been nine months now,” he said. “Because of this delay, it’s affecting other aspects of my life …” 

Rogers said he understood Canha’s frustration, and reiterated that the board wants to see these projects move forward.

Crocker was also asked to give an update on the Tashmoo pumpout boat, which nearly sank July 9. At a meeting last month, Crocker said it was a combination of a faulty bilge pump, a retrofitted boat with an outboard engine that was too big, and having too much “stuff” in the holding tank. Crocker is having the bilge pump fixed and a high-water alarm installed in the next few days, but it has not been done yet.

Lynne Fraker, a local mariner, criticized the timeline. “Why does it take so long for a simple repair?” she said.

Tisbury doesn’t have a town mechanic, and the harbormaster doesn’t have one under contract when services are needed, something Grande said needs to be rectified. 

For now, boaters are being offered pumpouts at Owen Park by the P.U.- E II, and Crocker has put red tape lines to make it clear to crew members when the pumpout boat should be emptied.

“We’re trying to do it so it’s obvious to the operator when the boat needs to be pumped out,” he said.

Gomez praised Crocker for doing that, and instituting a report that needs to be filled out twice a day.

Meanwhile board members also asked Crocker to consider a way to empty the Tashmoo pumpout boat without traveling to the harbor to dump it into the sewer. Rogers pointed out the possibility of an accident and spilling waste into the harbor.

Pumpout services are free to boat owners. The town does receive some reimbursement from the state through the Clean Vessel Act, Crocker said. The idea is to provide the incentive so boaters won’t foul the water by illegally discharging.

Boat waste wasn’t the only waste discussed. The select board got an update from Mark White of Environmental Partners on the town’s Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan. Essentially, Environmental Partners is attempting to help the town figure out what it wants to do to increase flow, between an expansion of the system, which could cost $15 million to $30 million, or use of alternative systems.

“It’s not whether you need more treatment capacity, it’s how much,” White told the board.

The board voted 3-0 for Kristal to act as the liaison with the consultant.

White told the board Tuesday’s session was essential in providing direction over the next 10 months as they develop a scope of work.

In a joint meeting with the finance and advisory committee, the select board interviewed four candidates to fill three vacancies — Dan Seidman, India Rose, Kelley Metell, and Allan Rogers.

Two of the candidates demonstrated how small the town is — Metell is the wife of DPW director Kirk Metell, which presents inherent conflicts of interest, and Rose is the daughter of finance committee member Laura Rose.

“This is a much bigger conflict, nothing personal, Kelley,” Laura Rose said. “[Kirk’s] got a big job, and he oversees a lot of finances and a lot of people’s jobs. It would behoove us to be very careful moving forward with putting Kelley on the committee.” 

Kristal said the potential conflicts are not enough to discount Metell as a member of the committee. She’d need an ethics commission determination and to file a disclosure, he said.

Metell is a teacher with no committee experience; Seidman is an investment advisor who has served on the planning board and other committees; Rose is a business consultant; and Rogers, no relation to Jim Rogers, is a retired manager of industrial distribution centers.

The finance committee will meet and deliberate to make a recommendation for appointments, to be voted on by the select board August 25. Finance committee members are typically elected, but when there are vacancies, they are filled by votes of the finance committee and the select board.

In other business, Grande told the board the Beach Road construction of the shared-use path planned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is expected to begin in the fall. Utility work in September will likely disrupt traffic flow on the busy roadway that joins Tisbury and Oak Bluffs. More extensive construction won’t begin until after Columbus Day, Grande said.

Rogers updated the committee on the school building committee’s progress on Tisbury School. He said the committee wants input from parents on the $56.7 million plan that’s been chosen to work with and potentially pare down, but it’s difficult to get them to Zoom meetings. He suggested the selectmen hold a meeting at the town’s Emergency Services Facility with the garage doors open and chairs set up socially distantly to see if that might work for a future building committee meeting. What wasn’t discussed is that indoor gatherings are currently limited to 25 and under, by order of Gov. Charlie Baker, and the building committee alone is made up of nine members.



  1. When I am ever denied anything it is because of my race.
    What else can it be?
    It certainly not be because I spaced out the the week of the meeting.
    Or that I failed to comply with all town rules and regulations in a timely manner.
    I was denied because of my race.
    The Island is so racist.
    Racist is the word of the year.

  2. Every time I hear or read the words “these people” (Jeff Kristal) a red flag goes up. Those words can be an indicator of racism. What not refer to him as Mr. Silva? He has been a successful, important business in this community for 20 years. Mr. Silva is owed an apology, at the least.

    • Susan, I thought the same thing when I read that line. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Jeff Kristal has to go. Mr. Silva, my advice to you would be to get out of Tisbury at the very first opportunity you get. That town should be appreciating you and all the revenue that you bring in for them, not treating you so poorly. I had a feeling this was going on behind the scenes given the BOS agendas that have been posted as of late. I am saddened to find out that my instinct was correct and I completely agree with Mr. Silva’s claims. I hope he has a good attorney. Don’t back down! You got this!

    • “these people” sound like the words of someone who is completely out of touch with the community and furthermore, his actions against Elio, a small business owner, show Jeff Kristal is also completely tone deaf! not everyone can afford Range Rovers and a copper clad roofs Jeff! Please come down from your ivory tower sir and get to know the folks in the community that you serve!

    • By these people was he referring to people who do not bother to comply with licensing requirements, or bother to attend the licensing board hearings to answer questions they may have. .

  3. Leave Elio alone. I have known Elio Silva for many years. He is one of the most intelligent, conscious, generous, kind, thoughtful people I have ever known. Vineyard Grocer is an important hub for the community; in particular the hard working manual laborers and others of us on a budget who appreciate the way Elio bends over backwards to provide good fresh food and sundries at more affordable prices. It is the working mostly Brazilian members of our community who rely on his traditional cooked foods he makes for a quick breakfast lunch or supper and he is to be commended for everything that he offers to our community. He is in service to a segment of the community who have come to rely upon him. We should be bending over backwards to support him.
    Elio Silva is a gem. Stop harrassing him. And Elio..get your dates right!
    I hope that after heads cool this matter will be easily resolved. So Be It! Amen. ????????????✨????????????

  4. To the Board:
    Stop harassing Elio! Elio is GOODNESS in our community. You’ve got plenty of other things to worry about. Vineyard Grocer is not one of them. Get your priorities straight and quit your resentment of successful Brazilian business owner who feeds so many so well.

  5. I am outraged by this!!! Why should Elio have to pay for an attorney to appeal the boards apparent racist decision when he has come into compliance with the boards request? Why should Elio have to pay for the fire suppression system when it’s not actually his building?
    The Town Administrator & BOS should be completely ashamed with their actions. Have you driven thru VH lately to see that it looks like a ghost town, even on nights and weekends? Majority of stores are closed or vacant because the business owners have multiple locations and limited help and would rather be open in the other island towns (Mad Marthas, Vineyard Vines, etc).
    Why in the world would Jeff Kristal chose the middle of a global pandemic where businesses are shutting down left and right to make an example and prove a point to Elio? That is very distasteful. Elio is a very hard working man who works literally 24/7 so if you couldn’t get a hold of him that is why. What has this town come to? Are we islanders going to allow this treatment?

    • A victualer’s license is issued to a company with a named manger and named location.
      Not to a building or it’s owner.
      A restaurant requires a fire suppression system.
      In the end it is the restaurant owner’s responsibility.

  6. …and it keeps flowing in Tisbury, get some waders cause’ it’s getting deep and smelly. The town administrator doesn’t know how to handle an appeal to a rather arbitrary decision by the board??? Really, he’s the town administrator, it’s his job to know! As far as Mr. Silva, I couldn’t agree more with his assessment of the situation. Krystal made very special arrangements for the mansion house to have a Main Street drop off spot in front of the hotel, which had been an all purpose loading/unloading zone; yet when Mr. Silva asks for a take out food spot in front of his business during a time of hardship he is told no. Well that looks pretty darn racist. I don’t blame Mr. Silva for utilizing an attorney from now on when dealing with Tisbury… why would he want to talk to the Grande, he by his own admission doesn’t know the particulars of his job. Looks like just another law suit coming in for a landing. I hope they get that pump out boat fixed soon, only been down for a month, but they need it for all the non-sense the BOS and Grande are spewing.

  7. Mr Kristal, these people delivered groceries to our home during this pandemic the only grocery store on island offering this service. And sir, these people are the ones mowing the lawns, cooking your food, paying the taxes and cleaning your business. Sir you are a disgrace to the town of Tisbury, us people must vote your butt out of office.

    • “these people”, are these people different from the rest of us?
      They deliver our groceries, mow our lawns, cook our food and clean our businesses.
      Are ‘these people’ preliminary immigrants of color?
      ‘these people’ sounds Racist.

  8. Good for the DMF. The Tashmoo farm should never be approved. It goes against ALL state and local guidelines. Thank goodness for the overview in this case. Worst placement for a farm ever.

  9. Elio Silva is the hardest working business man you could ever want to see. It’s a pandemic, the property owner didn’t prioritize the upkeep. This is a rock and a hard place. Mr Silvia always makes time to talk with my students when we take a field trip to his store. He cares about his community, and he improves the town both State Road and Main Street. Tisbury, let’s support this productive business man! A Tisbury Teacher.

  10. “These people”??? Wow. Just when you think Tisbury can sink no lower in pettiness. Silva’s litigation will cost the town thousands in defense costs. Hey Tisbury Selectmen — was it worth it to go on record as jerks?

    • Very good point. How many lawsuits does the town have against it currently? And they just want to keep adding more? Kristal / Tisbury can’t help themselves… Grow up! Mr. Silva deserves a public apology and more.

  11. I agree that this makes no sense. Yes, there was a delay, but the store then had the fire suspension system installed, operational, and inspected. So why deny the license?
    And I agree that Mr. Kristal’s reference to “these people”, if accurate, is troubling and deserves an apology.

    • Because the man ignored the Board, didn’t even show up at the meeting to discuss the Board’s concerns.
      It is time for him to come to Board, hat in hand.

      • Ajay, I am pleasantly surprised at your response. I’m in agreement with you. As Mr. Silva said himself, “I f-ed up.”

  12. First time they’ve ever said ‘NO’ to a victualler’s license and it’s for pure retribution – they admitted it. A hard working, local YEAR ROUND business that’s providing an essential service during a global pandemic. Nice work Tisbury. You again prove why you’re the armpit of the island. I’m embarrassed for you.

  13. Elio Silva has been a pillar in our community for a few decades, The whole island can testify to Elio’s hard work and dedication to our community, helping us get healthy affordable food on our tables. Mr. Kristal should be fired and replaced come next election !

  14. It is appalling to see someone so readily pull out the old race card and then see so many support it!
    First, just which race is being discriminated against?
    And secondly, read the damned quote with less than racially biased eyes.
    “ We have a hard time getting these people to the table to talk about anything. Business owners should be readily available to talk about anything … These owners need to be present.”
    The reference to “these people “, is obviously directed at business owners, not at anyone’s race!!
    Soooo quick to ride the race train!
    Shame on everyone who couldn’t wait to climb aboard.

    • Ahhhh Soooo, I agree. A leaf falls from a tree and it has to be racism. What has happened to that word now is that it is meaningless as it has been applied much too broadly. I hear racism, I just shrug and go about my business. Thinking people are not fond of labels, epithets, and erroneously applied stereotypical language.

    • ahhhsoo–I am not surprised that “you people” will deny racism every time, although, I assume some of you are good people.

    • …says the person with the ugly mock-Chinese user name, Ahhh Sooo. Systemic racism is alive and well on Martha’s Vineyard.

      “Ah so” is actually Japanese but is used with racist undertones by many ignorant Americans. Denying sysptemic racism, as AJay and mock-Chinese person does here, is another red flag that exposes it. Clearly, the community backs Elio.

      • Ah so desu ka is Japanese for ”oh so that is what it is”. It is common for Japanese when hearing something say that phrase as a beginning of their next sentence. Nothing racist in the post about Mr Silva. Simply a name someone wants to use. Yes Japan is another place I have spent a great deal of time in and done business in. However I must be lying.

        • Andrew, the definition of mansplaining is when a man pipes up to explain something to a woman that she already knows.

          • However, not recognizing and denying obvious systemic racism is something people like you routinely do. Can you read my mind and tell me what “people like you” means, Andy, or can you figure it out from the context?

    • A cracker can fall off a barge and have part of our public space or public land and make money. Yet an off islander from another country busting his butt and putting in those eighty hour weeks, providing jobs and increasing jobs offered during the pandemic, offering home delivery to customers who did not or do not want to go out in public and opening a year round downtown restaurant and bakery. Hmm I like those people the ones which make life better for all of us.

    • The guy has been on MV for 32 years and is an American citizen. He is Brazilian of Portuguese descent. It is laughable that his treatment is considered racist. The Fire Suppression system is the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant depending on what the building was leased for. ”these people” clearly referred to business owners who dont show up and meet requirements. What island do some of you folks live on?

      • What is laughable is when a white male, who has already explained that we have coronavirus because “Chinese are dirty” and they “spit on the street”, tells us that the systemic racism so obvious in this punishing decision about “these people” isn’t racist.

        Do we really need people who routinely express racist beliefs to tell us what is or isn’t racist? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t seem to stop them.

    • aso — I am pretty certain that those people would have used the term “business owners” rather than “these people” if this was a business owned by white people.
      I am sure it is so subliminal, most people don’t even know they have any bias. It is different than out right racism. I certainly would not accuse anyone on the board of being a racist.
      There are plenty of them on the island who are open and proud.

  15. It doesn’t seem appropriate to me that the Board could use a license denial as a means of punishment. An approval/denial should be a simple process of looking at whether or not the applicant has checked all the boxes required of them. Not a vindictive look backwards.

    This seems like an abuse of their licensing authority.

    And of course there’s also the fact that hitting a business in the middle of this challenging and uncertain economic environment once again shows how disinterested Tisbury is supporting their businesses.

    If the non-compliance issues have been resolved what is the actual grounds for denial?

  16. Vineyard Grocer is a solid grocery that I, among many others, have been using for curbside, since the start of this pandemic. A great service to the community and also a smart business decision. There were plenty of glitches, our orders were often incorrect, etc. But they always accepted refunds and did their jobs well. However. It is inexcusable to continue prepared foods business when permits are not approved. This has nothing to do with minority-owned businesses! If other stores did the same, Cronig’s say, it would not be about that, it is a false equivalence. The truth is that they skirted regulations to make money and serve communities at the expense of other businesses who played by the rules. We do not live in a free for all society and what makes America fair for all businesses on this Island must be that the same rules apply to ALL. So leave behind this “minority” argument – it only reinforces any company of minorities who skirt permit approvals and builds further resentment among those who abide by town permits. Vineyard Grocer was very wrong to do this, no doubt they understood when they kept going that they knew. They are smart as a business. It was wrong. We live on an island together based on trust. Vineyard Grocer broke that public trust

    • But they fixed the problem… The denial was in regards to a problem that no longer exists.

      The town allowed them to continue operating while a known issue existed and then told them to stop after the issue had been alleviated as punishment for the previous noncompliance.

      I can’t speak the accusation of discrimination but this denial is obscene and I’m not surprised that Mr. Silva responded in the way he did.

  17. I agree the man should have his license and be able to continue business as usual.

    To vote to approve it, and then say ,”No”, is tantamount to a public spanking!
    It is childish and unprofessional!!

    But “racist” it is NOT!!

    And again….which race would that be???

    • Well Elio is Brazilian and Vineyard Grocer is well known as a Brazilian-America run business. Presumably that’s what Mr. Silva was referring to.

      Are you attempting an argument of semantics, in which racism doesn’t technically apply to a nationality? Pretty weak if so.

  18. Elio Silva -What a Great Guy-what is wrong with the BOD-they really have lost their collective minds -everyone out for themselves and their own agendas–I remember when Kristal wanted the tennis courts gone- all i could think of was about half a dozen signs saying parking for the Crocker House Only- And now the CENSORSHIP Begins No more comments starting friday. Seriously MV Times-Anyone who needs confirmation of Elio-look no farther than OB and his upcoming project past the Rink. And another thing last time Selectman Kristal was on the board he got the commmercial TAX RATE lower than the residential and what has it done for Tisbury- NADA This will be my last post if the moderators allow it !!!!

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