Downtown Outdoor Restaurant Gets Entertainment Permit Over Neighbors’ Objections

by Tim Wood
Aplaya Kitchen and Tiki Bar was granted an entertainment license by the select board last week over the objections of neighbors. TIM WOOD PHOTO Aplaya Kitchen and Tiki Bar was granted an entertainment license by the select board last week over the objections of neighbors. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – Over the objections of neighbors, the select board last week approved an entertainment license for Aplaya Kitchen and Tiki Bar.

The outdoor restaurant opened last summer in the space formerly occupied by the Blue Coral in the Chatham Gardens complex (formerly the Swinging Basket) at 483 Main St. Run by Pelinda and Tom Deegan, who also own and operate Mom and Pops Burgers, the restaurant features Filipino cuisine and “tiki” type cocktails. Its name, “Aplaya,” means “beach” or “coast” in Tagalog.

The Deegans had requested an entertainment license for live and recorded music and “potentially cultural performances aligned with our Filipino cuisine/concept,” according to the application. Following a hearing March 25, the select board granted the license, but only for acoustic music without amplification. The board also limited the days on which entertainment is allowed to Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday and restricted the hours to 1 to 5 p.m.

Tom Deegan accepted the restrictions, saying patrons had requested that music be featured at the restaurant and he wanted to promote local musicians. But he did not want to create a conflict with neighbors, either.

“This is not something that we’ve deemed critical to our business,” he said. “Like I said, if it’s a problem, I’m going to be willing to get rid of it.”

Neighbors said they’d had problems with entertainment at the Blue Coral and were concerned that Aplaya, which has a full liquor license, would turn into a party spot.

“My feeling is this is the wrong business in the wrong place,” said Mill Pond Road resident Charles Horan, holding up a page from Aplaya’s website featuring a photo of a cocktail. “The longer the night goes on, the louder the crowd gets,” he said, adding that as advertised the restaurant looked to him like “an open-air nightclub.”

“We live in Chatham, we don’t live in Margaritaville, which is what this kind of looks like,” Horan said.

Deegan responded that the bar business takes a back seat to the food service and closes its bar an hour earlier than their license allows them to serve.

“We are absolutely food forward,” he said. “In no way are we Margaritaville.” The owners have “zero interest in having issues with neighbors,” he added.

Taken together with the recent approval for continued outdoor service on the patio behind The Chatham Squire, which is adjacent to Aplaya, the new license has the potential to “become very intrusive” for neighbors, said resident Dee Dee Holt.

During the hearing, Squire attorney William Riley said if the board granted an entertainment license for Aplaya, his clients would also apply for an entertainment license for the outdoor patio.

“Whatever you grant, we want you to know we’re going to be coming in with the same thing,” he said.

Blue Coral was granted an entertainment license in 2002 for up to two instruments with no amplification. After a noise complaint in 2010, the owner gave up the license, but reapplied in 2016. The select board denied that request.

Deegan said he was concerned that some of the comments about the restaurant were based on neighbors’ experience with the Blue Coral and constituted “fear mongering and some bias, to be blunt.”

“We shouldn’t be judged on other businesses,” he said.

Searching for a solution, select board members sought a compromise, agreeing the noon to 10 p.m. hours sought in the application were too broad.

“We need to be sensitive to the surroundings,” said board member Jeff Dyens. “It’s a very tight area.” Dean Nicastro said he was concerned about setting a precedent for the location.

Board members agreed that amplified music or a DJ would not be appropriate for the spot. Deegan accepted the suggestion to limit the hours and days and host only acoustic music.

Noting that his home was 100 yards from the restaurant and other neighbors were closer, Horan said he did not think the board was giving the situation the attention it deserves. Vice chair Michael Schell said if there is a problem, Horan should speak to the restaurant’s management or call the police, who enforce the town’s noise bylaw.

Entertainment permits must be renewed annually, and board members said they would treat the coming season as a trial and decide on a renewal based on how the season goes.