ORLEANS — With erosion eating away about 12 feet of Nauset Beach a year, next summer was to have been the last for Liam's restaurant on its familiar perch above the waves. The building, which is owned by the town, was to be torn down and Liam's relocated to a new structure farther back in the parking lot.
But last week, the potential cost of that stopgap measure convinced the board of selectmen that Liam's should ride out the remaining three years of its lease where it is. The hope is that nature will be kind.
“You had a good winter last winter, so that erosion rate came down some,” Leslie Fields of Woods Hole Group told the board last week. Earlier, the coastal geologist had said, “You can do nothing and hope Mother Nature will cooperate and there'll be no damage to Liam's, but there's no guarantee of that.”
If the building has to be demolished because it is “in imminent danger of being destroyed,” Town Administrator John Kelly said, that would end the lease.
Reached by email last week, Liam's owner John Ohman replied that he would wait to speak with town officials before commenting.
Woods Hole Group has been working with the town on a beach retreat plan for Nauset. Its first phase was to involve tearing down the building occupied by Liam's and relocating the business to a new facility in the parking area. That would allow work to protect the dune prior to the second phase, which would involve moving the remaining oceanside buildings to a new location. In that phase, the space freed up and some existing parking spaces would be covered with 30,000 cubic yards of sand to bulk up the back side of the dune.
Ron Collins, the town's building and facilities manager, has been meeting with Ohman and Ohman's son Liam about the requirements for a new building for the business in the parking lot. The intention had been to buy or build a structure that could be moved in a few years to accommodate the second phase of the beach retreat plan. “Generally, they feel it would work,” Collins said of the Ohmans.
After hearing Collins review the complicated physical arrangements required for the new set-up, the board told him to end negotiations with a design firm interested in bidding on the work.
“I think we're looking at a huge expense to put in a building that meets all the regulatory requirements,” Selectman Mark Mathison said. “At some point, we'd be better served to put an administration building up on the knoll and perhaps look at mobile food trucks (in the parking lot).” Keying off Kelly's information that the town takes in about $100,000 annually from Liam's, Mathison said that under that new arrangement, “We might not make $100,000 a year, but we're not spending millions to put something in harm's way.” Later, he said of the temporary relocation, “It seems we are spending an awful lot of time and money to do something that won't be permanent and is holding up work on the whole master project.”
“Here we are talking about a building we're going to construct 50 feet landward of Liam's,” Selectman Allen McClennen said. “It may go in two years....We spend $500,000 to build this building, then spend (more) dollars to jack it up and move it. I think we could have a lot more fun with mobile concessions.”
Given the board's action, Fields said, she was “almost ready to go with filing letters of intent” for the retreat project. Some first-phase work to build up the dune will be possible even with Liam's in place.