A much-discussed bowling alley project planned for downtown Oak Bluffs cleared another hurdle Tuesday night when selectmen approved a liquor license for the future building. The license was granted with the condition that MV Bowl, LLC be open and serving alcohol only during hours specified by the Martha's Vineyard Commission.
The bowling alley, which will be located on Uncas avenue on the site of a former laundromat, was approved by the commission three weeks ago as a development of regional impact. Throughout the public hearing process, the project drew concern from abutters because it is situated in a commercial zone surrounded by residential homes.
On Tuesday developer Reid (Sam) Dunn and attorney Howard Miller began the process of securing town approval and permitting for the project.
As was the case throughout the commission hearings, discussion centered on the facility's hours of operation. During hearings, Mr. Dunn offered to have last call for food, drinks, and bowling at 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11:30 p.m. on weekends. Last call in Oak Bluffs is at 1 a.m.
“We want to be closed before the bars in Oak Bluffs are closed because we don’t want that kind of traffic in our establishment,” Mr. Dunn said. “We’re not trying to alienate anybody but . . . we want to send that message that we’re closing early and if they want to [stay and drink] it should be somewhere else.”
“Personally, I think this has a lot of potential to the town,” town resident Richard Toole said. He added that he is friends with direct abutters. “Their consideration is going to have to be really carefully guarded throughout this process and into operation.”
Selectman Walter Vail said he had received a letter from abutter Alison Stewart requesting that a second fence be constructed around the building’s parking lot. She also asked that a limited license for beer and wine only be granted.
That view was shared by attorney Ellen Kaplan, representing abutters on Hiawatha avenue. She said her clients were also concerned with where the alcohol would be served in the facility. Under the current proposal, it will be served in both the bowling alley itself as well as the restaurant in the building. Ms. Kaplan urged the selectmen to limit serving areas as well as hours.
Selectman Gail Barmakian asked if the hours could be changed to 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., in part to ease the strain on police detail in the summertime and help mitigate noise in the area.
“I think the hours we’ve offered are really fair,” Mr. Dunn said. “If we go further than that it's going to start to impact enjoyment and our bottom line.”
The boundaries of commercial and residential areas are a concern for the entire downtown.
“All of our liquor establishments back up to residential properties and we’ve had many issues with that over the years,” selectman Gregory Coogan said. “Everything here has a neighbor within five feet. Actually, this [project] is in some ways cleaner than others.”
“We don’t want you to close once you open,” he said. “I certainly would like you to be successful.”
“This town needs more shots in the arm, it really does,” Mr. Vail said. “And I've heard from many folks who think this is a really good shot in the arm.”
“I agree with Walter, I think it’s a great project and a tremendous asset to the town,” selectman Kathy Burton said. “As a business person, I think the all-alcohol license is necessary to one's success.”
The license was approved by three selectmen, with Ms. Barkmakian abstaining. Selectman Mike Santoro was not at the meeting.
Mr. Dunn said construction would begin as soon as permitting was complete, and that he was aiming for a May 15 start date. Work would continue through the summer, but only on the interior of the building.
“I’ve already committed to some people who’ve asked me that we will not work on outside during summer,” Mr. Dunn said.
An opening date had originally been set for October, but “that’s a little optimistic at this point,” Mr. Miller said. The team is now shooting for midwinter opening next year.
Final site plan review for the project will go before the town planning board.