To Our Advantage

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

In consideration of whether or not to allow beer and wine to be served by wait staff in restaurants with seating of 30 or more, using china settings, it should be noted that Tisbury is not now a dry town.

Historically Tisbury’s predominant industries have been fishing and tourism. I have been in and out of the restaurant business for 34 years, both as an owner and an employee. I can tell you every day, in season, I explain to weary travelers, “I’m so sorry we do not serve any alcoholic beverages, it’s BYOB.” About a third of the time, after a customer has been greeted and seated, when they ask where they can buy a bottle to bring in, they get up and make their way to Oak Bluffs or Edgartown, taking their precious tourist dollars with them.

BYOB means customers bring all types of alcoholic beverages to accompany their meal in any Vineyard Haven restaurant. Those who are aware that our restaurants cannot sell alcohol bring in coolers full of the spirits of their choice. The town has no control over it and the town and the people who work here don’t make any money from the coolers. Beer and wine licenses would keep the town character the way we all want it to be.

At a time when the town needs more income, it would seem it is to our advantage to keep our Main street businesses healthy and vibrant. Do not be misled to believe that voting yes on April 15 will open the door to bars and package stores. This cannot happen according to the language of this article.

It is also a mistake to believe our harbor will change and become honky tonk and raucous. There is currently no ban on any flow of alcohol on the yachts moored in our harbor.

Please be clear about our town as it realistically exists. Vote yes to beer and wine. Nina Garde

Vineyard Haven

Change: Oui

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

From my restaurant, Le Grenier, I have watched Vineyard Haven for 30 years. During that time I have paid taxes, hired Island staff, supported many school and community groups and have stayed open year-round because I am a member of your community.

BYOB allows diners to enjoy a delicious dinner. People who say our community will change are wrong. Beer and wine are already here, they are just not regulated by the town. That means I have no insurance and that the town does not benefit from what is already happening.

I am a part of a neighborhood on Upper Main street. A neighborhood is one where you can walk into town to have a good dinner without first driving to another town to purchase wine. There is no late dining, there is no rowdy noise, there are only adults enjoying French cuisine. It would be horrible if a walk into town only met with darkness and if our town kept going downhill with empty storefronts. Empty storefronts increase your tax share.

There will be no bars. No liquor stores or liquor served. Any new restaurants would have to be approved by the board of health, zoning board, sewerage commission, selectmen and maybe the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Nothing will change. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Please vote yes on Tuesday, April 15 and insure that our town remains a good place to live and work.

Jean Dupon

Vineyard Haven

Have the Courage

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Opponents of beer and wine are afraid that the character of the town will change. Change from what? When we bought the inn in 1985 we loved watching the kids line up at Burt’s barbershop on Saturday. The slippery slope is that the town will close down in winter. If you want to keep what we have, encourage shops to stay open year-round. Give businesses another reason to keep their lights on and support neighborhood activities. A deserted Main street from November to April is not the answer for any of us.

Please keep in mind that we already have BYOB. You and your neighbors can bring what you want and if you plan ahead, you already do. Folks who still want to bring their own will be able to do so in the restaurants that chose not to apply for a beer and wine license. The movie theatre, along with a bookstore, pharmacy and supermarket seem essential to maintaining a year-round town.

The town of Tisbury beer and wine review committee wrote in October 2006: “In summary, the fire, police and DPW agreed that there would be no significant impact to their departments.”

Rockport went wet in 2006 and their town departments report no increase in problems related to the repeal.

Town counsel David Doneski explained that the law can not be changed without:

• A petition to be a town warrant article.

• A town meeting vote.

• Governor’s approval.

• Return for ballot vote.

We will not have bars.

On Tuesday, April 15, please vote yes to “the sale of beer and wine to patrons of restaurants with a seating capacity of not less than 30 persons to be consumed with meals only. The sale of alcohol only without meals shall be prohibited.” This is an important vote. Not just for us, because we own Zephrus, but for all the residents of Tisbury.

Last is the money issue. Every time a tourist chooses Oak Bluffs, Edgartown (and now Aquinnah) because as vacationing adults, they want a glass of beer or wine with dinner, Tisbury loses real money. Tisbury takes in 4 per cent of every lodging dollar. Last year the town directly collected $152,463 in rooms tax. Give Tisbury the opportunity to make revenue without raising your taxes.

Please vote. Please read the rules and regulations so you rise above the inaccurate scare tactics. Evidence supports that nothing will change with this vote, and what is already happening (BYOB) would now be regulated.

Please vote yes.

Susan and Sherman Goldstein

Vineyard Haven

Two Wins

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Regarding the sale of wine and beer in Tisbury, I have had or been involved with four restaurants on the Vineyard over the course of 32 years (Martha’s Cheeses, Feasts the Food Store, Feasts in Chilmark and The Oyster Bar in Oak Bluffs) and can tell you from personal experience that trying to make a living in the restaurant business without wine and beer sales is well nigh impossible. It truly is as Laura Barbera said in her letter last week “a public service.”

It is a killer business, once you have the menu in place, make the orders, place the orders, receive the food, put away the food, prepare the food, serve the food and clean up after service, you are done in. And when you realize you’ve done all this to basically cover your costs and pay the rent or your mortgage, it’s a very depressing reality. The profit margin in this business is extremely slim. You have to really love what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it for.

I know most of the hardworking restaurateurs in Tisbury and I know that given these economic realities, they must be hanging on by a thread. If the good people of Tisbury vote no to wine and beer, there soon won’t be anywhere decent to eat in town before the movies or after you’ve gotten in late on the boat. (The Black Dog probably survives on T-shirt sales.)

Possibly the perception is that drunks will be spilling out of Tisbury’s restaurants. Really? Let’s think about that for a minute. How many of you enjoy a bottle of wine with dinner. Do you stumble out drunk afterwards? Do I smell a whiff of hypocrisy and Nimbyism? If you stop to think about it, is it really any different from the BYOB policy now in place? If granted a license, I think the restaurant owners in Tisbury will work very, very hard to keep an Oak Bluffs scenario from happening.

Remember, it’s only for restaurants with 30-plus seats, and wine and beer sales will be limited to table service with food only. They’re not going to be serving hard alcohol and package stores will not be springing up on Church and Main. The “gabled buildings and views of the harbor” will not be sullied by allowing your neighbor to have a glass of wine with dinner.

Why do you think the “succession of T-shirt shops” succeeds where the grocery, dry goods and hardware shops did not? A matter of simple economics. Take a good long look at Main street now. The T-shirt shops will continue to crowd out the small businesses and restaurants because T-shirts are a nonperishable commodity with the potential for a huge mark-up. Is this what you want for Tisbury? Or would  you rather have decent restaurants that attract new business to the town and keep the bookstores, home goods and clothing stores alive?

When I was 26 and Carol Dodd hired me to be the chef at Martha’s Cheeses in Edgartown (now Alchemy) we struggled to make it. Then we applied for and were granted a liquor license, all hell did not break loose, but we slowly started making money, she was able to afford a house, we were able to renovate the building and build a business. It was a win-win situation for us and the town.

So on April 15, pleas vote yes on question 4. Nine-year-old children will still be able to go downtown at night for an ice cream cone, sagebrush will not be rolling down the street at 9 p.m. on a summer night and maybe the aforementioned restaurateurs will actually be able to keep the lights on, make a decent living for all their hard work and continue to feed and entertain Vineyarders and tourists alike. Remember, they repealed Prohibition because it didn’t work.

Jaime Hamlin

Vineyard Haven

Restaurant Survival

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

This is in regard to the hotly debated issue of allowing Tisbury’s restaurants to sell beer and wine.

My husband and I own Nicky’s on State Road. We have been in business for seven years now. I like to believe that our loyal customers enjoy our food and atmosphere. We work very hard at running a nice restaurant with great food, and while we do derive pleasure from pleasing our customers, the sad fact remains that we simply cannot survive without the chance to increase our bottom line.

Raise prices on the food we sell? That’s crazy. I think I speak for all of us in Tisbury who operate restaurants when I tell you that many of us are at the ends of our financial ropes.

Over the last few years the issue of allowing [the sale of beer and wine] in full-service restaurants with at least 30 seats has been debated and proponents have all made good points that allowing beer and wine would be good for the town. I agree, but let’s get to the point. Running a restaurant in Tisbury has turned into a public service, not a business where hard-working people are able to serve great food and make a living at the same time. These things have unfortunately become mutually exclusive.

Some of the opponents of the issue speak of making money like it’s a dirty secret. God forbid we allow restaurant owners to make a living. We’d just like to continue to give you a great dining experience, that’s all.

One other point that seems to escape the attention of many is that we now permit our patrons to bring in whatever alcoholic beverage they choose, as much as they choose, coolers, wine, hard liquor etc. If we are granted the right to sell beer and wine only, you will no longer have the option to carry in. This means that we will check identification and monitor consumption. No hard liquor may be served at all and it stands to reason that if one is being charged a fee for a glass of wine or beer, one will drink less.

So, when you go to the polls on April 15, think about the restaurants you enjoy. A vote for beer and wine will keep our doors open longer, will allow us a safer atmosphere and more control.

Laura Barbera

Vineyard Haven