HARWICH — Of the 10 restaurants that applied to the selectmen for outdoor dining under the state’s emergency provisions for restaurants, only one – The Port Restaurant and Bar – was denied.
Selectmen made the decision based on general disturbances to the neighborhood.
Last Tuesday the board OK'd outdoor table service licenses for nine restaurants that received approval as part of the commonwealth’s state of emergency provisions last year and asked to continue the service this season. The approvals are temporary and will expire 60 days after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted.
Selectman Michael MacAskill offered a motion to approve The Port Restaurant’s request, then referenced an email on that day from Police Chief David Guillemette referring to noise complaints about the establishments, the location of the big tent in the back parking lot and crowd noise.
Joe Ganley, who said he lives across Sea Street from the parking lot to the rear of the restaurant, said the addition of the tent and outdoor table service was a “huge game changer” for the neighborhood. Ganley said he agreed with selectmen that the guidelines allow the outdoor service as a privilege and not a right and it was “abused last year.”
“I don’t see how the selectmen can vote this with what happened last summer. Everyone’s seen the videos,” resident Bob Nickerson said. “How can you say you want to do this again when you can’t stop it half way through the summer? It’s a crazy thing.”
Selectman Donald Howell said the board should wait a week on the decision, since a hearing is scheduled on Tuesday, May 4 on The Port’s seasonal liquor and entertainment licenses and alleged violations of the state’s COVID-19 emergency guidelines. If the board approves outdoor dining now, it will not be able to rescind the vote, Howell said.
MacAskill said he received a lot of phone calls about the restaurant. The board approved the tent, he said, but he didn’t know it would take up the entire parking lot. The business now has no parking for patrons and employees and delivery trucks park on the road, he said.
There was a shed and a menu platform also added behind the restaurant, and MacAskill said he does not remember that coming before the board. Howell said the Governor’s order says nothing about allowing ancillary facilities outside.
Attorney Raymond Tomlinson, representing owners Justin Brackett and Jared Brackett, said he was unaware of videos circulating and expressed concerns his clients had not been notified of presentations being made that evening.
The tent location was approved by the town building department, Tomlinson said. The merchandise shed does not take up a parking space but is a stand alone structure on the shelled ground, with no plumbing. “It’s similar to the bar at Perks,” the adjacent outdoor restaurant, the attorney said.
Tomlinson said many of the restaurants approved that evening also do not have parking. He said delivery trucks for 3 Monkeys, Cape Sea Grille and Perks all use the street.
Tomlinson said the governor emergency order limits the board’s ability to condition the privilege. Town Administrator Joseph Powers disagreed, citing an emergency guideline that allows the town to modify the scope of these approvals if found appropriate.
Selectmen approved a policy last October granting “Automatic extension of outdoor table service with on-premise consumption of alcohol to all establishments that have been previously approved by the Interim Town Administrator and local licensing authority.”
Selectmen agreed the state has granted the town the authority to make decisions on outdoor table service and concluded they have the ability to terminate the service.
Selectmen denied outdoor table service for The Port Restaurant on a 4-0 vote. Tomlinson asked about filing for a new license.
“Anyone can reapply,” Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine said.