There will be one more beer and wine license in Edgartown this summer, and that has some local business owners uneasy.
Appearing at a public hearing during an Edgartown selectmen’s meeting on Monday, attorney Sean Murphy, representing John Ready of the proposed Edgartown Meat and Fish Market in Post Office Square, said that an additional alcohol license in town would not affect other businesses.
“I just want to stress that this is to complement the market that’s there,” he said. “They don’t want to be a package store and they’re not looking to encroach on other liquor stores in the town. It’s a different market, it’s a different setup. It’s not the type of place you’d go in to grab a six-pack of beer.”
Mr. Ready plans to replace what was once Hollywood Video with a 4,850-square-foot, upscale grocery, deli, meat and fish market. Mr. Murphy said that the store would sell craft beers and high-end wines to complement its selection of local and regionally sourced meat and fish, as well as other upmarket foodstuffs.
“It’s not a convenience store; they’re not going to be selling lottery tickets,” he said. “It’s a high-end meat and fish market.”
But on Monday some local business owners remained unconvinced. In a strongly-worded letter to selectmen Benjamin Hall Jr., president of Great Harbour Gourmet & Spirits, Inc., described the congestion along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
“The general area has dense traffic conditions and parking that, even with just half of the buildings in the shopping center occupied, is near capacity throughout the day,” the letter reads. “The town already has more beer and wine outlets than it really needs to serve the current population under current economic conditions.”
Gary Look, owner of Al’s Package Store, also spoke against the new beer and wine license on Monday, citing congestion and parking as concerns in the area even without the addition of a new business.
“If the parking lot is full and the trucks come in, the traffic will then stop out on Vineyard Haven Road,” he said.
In the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s decision not to review the project as a development of regional impact, however, commission members felt that parking and traffic generated by the market could be accommodated. The commission estimated that the market would generate an increase of 10 trips per peak hour more than Hollywood Video.
“Traffic is a red herring,” Mr. Murphy said on Monday. “The market’s been permitted. . . It’s one of the major commercial centers in town over the past 20 or 30 years and a quarter of it is sitting vacant.”
Mr. Murphy added that he did not anticipate customers making unique trips to the store for beer or wine.
Others questioned the need for more alcohol licenses in a town already served by a number of vendors.
“I just question whether or not the town thinks it’s adequately served with the licenses that they have now, which is six,” said Mr. Look. “This would be seven, four of which would be within a quarter of a mile of each other.”
Mr. Ready is applying for a year-round rather than a seasonal license, a factor that affected at least one of the selectmen’s decisions to approve the application.
“This is a family that wants to run a year-round business,” said Mr. Murphy. “If they were here just trying to make a buck off of Edgartown and Martha’s Vineyard they’d ask for a seasonal. They’re trying to become a part of the community.”
“My biggest concern was answered today, which was whether this was going to be year-round,” said selectman Arthur Smadbeck. “I think having a store like this might actually benefit some of the other liquor stores.”
Mr. Smadbeck also said that traffic concerns had been previously addressed and that he did not see the project as representing undue competition to local vendors.
“All in all I think there’s a lot more positives that outweigh the negatives,” he said.
Mr. Murphy argued that the meat and fish market represented an investment in the community.
“All we keep hearing about is how young people are leaving the Island and we can’t keep them here,” he said. “Here we have a young man that wants to move into Edgartown and operate a business year-round to serve the community and all we keep hearing is how bad an idea this is. . . We should be encouraging competition . . . A month ago you couldn’t get a piece of fish on Martha’s Vineyard unless you went to Stop & Shop.”
Selectmen voted two to none to approve the beer and wine license. Selectman Michael Donaroma recused himself from the hearing as he owns a business near the proposed market.