Bad Martha Brewery, a craft beer company with Vineyard ties, is planning a microbrewery and retail space on part of Donaroma’s Nursery on Upper Main street.
The Edgartown planning board Tuesday approved the construction of a new 1,905 square-foot building on Donaroma’s property for Bad Martha. The beer company was started last spring by Jonathan Blum, a seasonal resident, and Island real estate developer Peter Rosbeck.
Attorney Sean Murphy, who represented Bad Martha before the planning board, said the beer is now served at 24 restaurants and nine package stores on the Island. The first 10 per cent of the company’s profits go to hunger relief efforts.
Most of the company’s beer will continue to be brewed in Ipswich, Mr. Murphy said, and the Edgartown location would be a microbrewery, brewing seven to 10 barrels and letting customers sample the beers.
Grain from local farms will be used for the beer, and Mr. Rosbeck said leftover mash will be fed to farm animals. Donaroma’s may grow hops, Mr. Murphy said.
“It’s a tasting room similar to what you’d find in Napa Valley,” Mr. Murphy said. Glasses or growlers (large jugs) of beer will be available to purchase, and there will be 10 indoor seats and 24 outdoor seats. Mr. Murphy said small food items might be served, and initial plans are to operate from April through December. He said he did not envision the microbrewery being open much past 8 p.m.
There will also be a small retail area with logo products for sale.
Mr. Murphy said the project will also require a permit from the state to operate a microbrewery, a permit from the board of selectmen to serve beer and a common victualler’s license if any food is served.
The microbrewery will have a porch and face the Donaroma’s parking lot, Mr. Murphy said. Part of the greenhouse will be removed to accommodate Bad Martha, he said, and the existing Donaroma’s decorations near the street will remain in place.
“It’s a microbrewery. It’s a positive thing for the town of Edgartown,” Mr. Murphy said, noting that coming to see how beer is made is an educational experience. “It’s not a bar, it’s not a nightclub . . . come see the beers being brewed . . . the intent is to get brand name out there.”
Michael Donaroma, an Edgartown selectman who owns the property, attended the meeting but did not speak.
Mr. Murphy told the Gazette Wednesday that the plan is to have the store open by late June.
Mr. Murphy said his law office, McCarron Murphy & Vukota, happens to be the closest abutter and obviously has no objection to the project
J.B. Blau, who owns the nearby Sharky’s Cantina and other Island restaurants, also wrote a letter of support for the project.
But residents of the nearby Dark Woods Road neighborhood had concerns about the impact on traffic in the neighborhood.
Cliff Meehan, who lives within walking distance, said he has “nothing against the brewery. My only concern is it going to push more traffic out onto Dark Woods Road.”
“The biggest concern is the traffic issue,” said Carol Forgione, a Dark Woods resident. “Anything you add is going to create an additional traffic issue which is overwhelming already. I think the idea is great . . . I’m not sure if that location is a good idea. One more thing is in an overcongested area that, let’s face it, is going to be utilized.”
There was confusion about whether beer would be served to drink at the microbrewery, and whether that made the location a bar.
“Is that a limit or can someone come in there and taste and taste and taste until they’re blotto?” asked Gordon Plank, a Dark Woods resident.
Mr. Murphy said people could order beers and they would be controlled like any licensed liquor establishment on the Island.
“You can sit there and drink beer just like going to a regular bar, right?” abutter Frank Forgione said. Mr. Murphy concurred, leading neighbors to asked what the difference was between the microbrewery and a bar.
“The difference is, it’s not a bar,” Mr. Murphy said.
“It is a bar if you can sit there and drink,” Mrs. Forgione said.
Planning board members said they were not concerned about that issue. “I don’t believe the applicants are trying to hide the fact it’s secretly a bar,” chairman Robert Sparks said.
Others noted that Bad Martha would be located in a B-2 business district.
“Edgartown zoning clearly made this area an area to promote business,” said Fred Mascolo, a member of the planning board who owns the Upper Main street store Trader Fred’s.
“I think the concept works because the craft brewery in Oak Bluffs seems to do very well,” said Mr. Mascolo, recalling that the planning board once approved a brewery in a residential neighborhood. “I think that’d be really nice that we have one in our town, a craft brewery. We have to remember, too, that they take 10 per cent of their profit and give it to Island Food Pantry. They are giving back to the community, that should be recognized. I think this is a nice touch for Upper Main street.”
Planning board member Alan Wilson noted that he was surprised that people could buy beer to drink there, and noted that it would be regulated by the board of selectmen.
Board member Michael McCourt said he had reservations. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said, but “I don’t think this project has a lot of thought. I love the marketing scheme, the marketing is great, but the parking issue, I really have a concern with that. I’d really like some more thought put into the parking just to ensure that when you have one of those crazy days [traffic isn’t] pulling out into Upper Main street.
“We already have a big problem anyway but to increase that problem . . . if that happens we’re looking at something that could be pretty bad for Upper Main.”
Mr. Sparks said the microbrewery would give the town “diversity we’ve lacked.” And he said Mr. Rosbeck’s and Mr. Blum’s reputations speak for themselves.
“Should any traffic issues arise I’m sure we can deal with them,” he said. The board voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.