To the Editor:
Let’s not forget that MANY people choose to live and vacation in Oak Bluffs because it is fun, engaging and vibrant, and that has nothing to do with the late night bar and entertainment identity. After yesterday’s Oak Bluffs Select Board meeting was impressively attended by vocal bar owners who self-identified as having “skin in the game” (?!), I was left with a lopsided characterization of this amazing town. I woke this morning bothered by thoughts that these owners may not even know the town my family has chosen since 1900.
Nightlife is not the only reason that people pay exorbitant taxes or rental fees to live and vacation here. Oak Bluffs’ rich history and resources draw people who love the early morning and daytime, and who are often trying to sleep when the bars let out well after midnight. We too cherish our town: porch visits with neighbors, events at Union Chapel and the Tabernacle, free concerts in Ocean Park, yoga and group swims at Inkwell, the Flying Horses and Featherstone, Reliable, DaRosa’s, the delightful and diverse shops, galleries and restaurants, Niantic Park’s playground and courts, all of our stellar public beaches and parks, the P.A. Club, pop-up music events all over, clamming in Sengie and walking everywhere….
It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, but it is obvious that the impacts of day and late-night fun are not equal on residents’ quality of life. I applaud the Select Board for trying to settle the noisy and sometimes chaotic atmosphere of bars closing a bit earlier, and to align closing time with our neighboring towns. I do also want to be able to support businesses who cater to the late night reality. Maybe those businesses ought to take more responsibility to monitor and bear more of the cost of what happens every night for an hour after they close. Noise, litter, fights may not happen inside their doors, but they happen most nights. That too has become the identity of the Oak Bluffs that some of yesterday’s speakers were gushing about. The police, and those who live near public parking spots (along the harbor and all around Kennebec and Ocean Park) bear the brunt of the fallout. We are, unfortunately, not as enamored.
Yes, the “late night entertainment identity” is part of what makes Oak Bluffs so attractive. But I’m not willing for that to be the main characterization. Let’s not forget about balance. For many, it is not late night bar action that is fun and attractive, or perhaps even important. All of us who identify Oak Bluffs as their favorite part of the Island, their fun and vibrant town, are important members of this special community.