To Chilmark voters: Please consider a yes vote on article 11 at the annual town meeting on Monday, April 24, allowing restaurants with seating of 50 or more in the town of Chilmark to sell beer and wine to patrons along with their meal. The sale of beer and wine in Chilmark restaurants will be beneficial to the town overall.

As restaurant owners/operators, we are not trying to change our businesses and we are not trying to change Chilmark. If allowed, the service of beer and wine will be secondary to the primary purpose of our business, which is to serve food and provide a place where community can come together. The only change will be the delivery system through which the customer receives that beer or wine.

If a yes vote prevails, the unmonitored consumption of hard-alcohol on our premises will be eliminated, as the license we are seeking is for beer and wine only. Allowing the sale of beer and wine in restaurants will be an opportunity to temper the amount of alcohol that is consumed in restaurants in Chilmark, not increase it. We jokingly call Chilmark “the wettest dry town in America,” funny, right? Patrons are currently allowed to bring any amount of alcohol into our dining establishments — and they do — and consume it as they wish, then leave with what has not been consumed, get in their car and drive home with open bottles. The booze is here, and it is in endless supply. As it stands right now, we assume all responsibility and liability for what is consumed on our premises but we have none of the privilege that comes along with selling it, nor do we have the authority to shut someone off. That is an unfair burden for restaurant owners to bear. A yes vote on article 11 would give us the responsibility of making sure everyone who dines in our establishment is safe and properly served.

As the demands of running a full service restaurant rise drastically, we face the option of a different type of change: not having any restaurants in town to patronize. I have run Chilmark Tavern since 2010, and through the highs and lows of seasonal operations, we have always remained a reliable and enjoyable spot to have a great meal in a fun atmosphere. But the last few years have proven more difficult to make ends meet.

The cost of running an establishment like Chilmark Tavern, with professional service and high quality ingredients, is out of line with comparable businesses in other parts of the country, and other parts of the Island. Being up-Island only magnifies the challenges. These are challenges that did not exist 10 years ago. Without another avenue to generate more income, restaurants in town may not be sustainable. We cannot in good conscience charge more for food. Beer and wine sales are the natural solution to this problem. This is not a discussion about giving a few business owners a chance to line their pockets, this is a conversation about the survival of restaurants in Chilmark.

Perhaps at this moment, you may not see the value in having restaurants in town, but, at some point, not having any sit-down dining establishments will negatively impact Chilmark. Healthy businesses create a healthy town, providing jobs, bringing people to town to patronize other local shops, and giving residents and visitors a place to frequent and put money into the local economy.

We are asking for the privilege to sell beer and wine to our patrons, with their meal. If granted, we would treat the privilege with the respect that it fully deserves, care for it, maintain it and honor it wholly. Please grant us the opportunity to continue to serve the community of Chilmark for many more years.

Please vote yes on article 11 so we can grow with Chilmark.

Jenna Petersiel

The writer is the proprietor of the Chilmark Tavern.