Updated August 13
A request to expand the street closures in downtown Oak Bluffs saw little support from selectmen at their meeting Tuesday night.
Danielle Pattavina, co-owner of Seaweed’s, asked to discuss closing Circuit and Kennebec Avenues to traffic five nights a week, from 6 pm to 11 pm, through the rest of August and September.
In June, after an initial request to have the streets closed to traffic every weekend, selectmen chose to approve Sunday street closures from 10 am to 10 pm, wanting to support businesses while also ensuring the public is properly social distancing. In July, following talks with Mocha Mott’s co-owner Tim Doble, selectmen reduced the closures to 11 am to 10 pm.
Pattavina said her request stemmed from the reduced Sunday street closure.
“That hour actually really hurt us,” Pattavina said. “That’s our biggest hour on Sunday brunch.”
According to Pattavina, Seaweed’s sees its business double on Sundays: “We’re looking for help so we can be around next year, is generally what we’re looking for.”
Seaweed’s co-owner Olivia Pattison asked about a bump-out for restaurants to allow for more tables.
“We only have five tables inside, and we can only seat nine on our patio,” Pattison said. “It would be really amazing to be able to feed more people.”
Adam Cummings, who owns the building that houses Cardboard Box and the Oyster Bar 02557, said Sundays are difficult for him, since his building becomes “essentially landlocked.”
Luke DeBettencourt, who owns the Corner Store, said the Sunday street closures have been a “struggle at best.”
“Entire street closure means a huge impact on my revenue. I know everyone is bailing water out of the sinking boat as fast as they can here,” DeBettencourt said, adding his revenue is down approximately 60 percent from last year, and 80 percent on Sundays.
Executive director of the Oak Bluffs Association Christine Todd said Reliable Market and Phillips Hardware are both in support of an extended closure as long as it runs from 6 pm to 11 pm, after both stores close. In a follow up call with The Times, Susan Phillips of Phillips Hardware said she never expressed support for the closure while Reliable Market owners felt their store did not have a right to take a position since it was after they were closed.
“I think this is outside the scope of what was on the agenda,” selectman Ryan Ruley said, adding he was more concerned about Cummings’ issues with access to his building.
Selectman Brian Packish said he heard from several businesses who are not in support of an extended closure. “We’ve taken it about as far as we’re going to take it this season, at least for me as an individual,” Packish said.
Packish added that while he supports the Sunday closure and hopes to see it continue even after the pandemic, he took issue with what he sees as a lack of participation on the street.
“This past Sunday, it was really hot, and it was very much a ghost town down there midday,” Packish said. “I would not be in support of any additional closures or changes unless we start talking about starting to dial back the closures that we’ve done because the premise of the whole thing was to encourage people to pull their wares outdoors, and it’s just not happening at the level it once was.”
Packish did add that he was open to discussing “pocket seating” for restaurants that could use extra tables for the remainder of the season.
Selectman Jason Balboni said he’s also heard opposition to the current and proposed expanded street closure from downtown businesses. “We’ve discussed a lot of this in a lot of our meetings, and we’re open to hearing more ideas, and if there’s something that can work, we will work with the business, but as of right now we haven’t found another way to deal with this,” Balboni said.
Balboni encouraged business owners to send emails on proposals, but said he didn’t see support for extended closures.
In other business, selectmen chose to add signage, work with police, and work with trucking companies to alleviate traffic near the intersection of Pennsylvania and Alpine Avenues.
The town’s roads and byways committee recommended selectmen install a gate near the intersection, following complaints from residents that too many heavy-duty trucks were driving through the area.
Selectmen agreed an educational outreach to companies using large trucks and to the public would be better than installing a gate, and will revisit the issue in the fall.
Selectmen also appointed former selectman Michael Santoro to the Steamship Authority working group and task force.
Updated to add comments from Reliable Market and Phillips Hardware owners. — Ed.