On 3-2 Vote, Select Board Grants Liquor License To Surfside On The Strip
Jason Graziadei •
After an extensive debate, the Select Board voted 3-2 on Wednesday to award an all-alcohol liquor license to “Surfside,” the new restaurant opening this spring on The Strip at 2 Broad Street in the former Easy Street Cantina location.
Members of the Select Board expressed deep reservations about introducing alcohol on The Strip - a traditional hangout for island youth - and the potential for “alcohol creep” to other establishments there by setting a new precedent. But they also were torn by the impulse to support a new fast/casual restaurant - a dying breed of dining establishment on the island - and after placing additional restrictions on the license, a slim majority of the board felt comfortable approving Surfside’s request.
According to those conditions on the license implemented by the Select Board, alcohol service will end at 9 p.m. and drinks can only be served to customers seated at a table.
Surfside, which will be operated by Georgetown Events, the owners of Millie’s in Madaket and three other “Surfside” restaurants in Washington D.C., intends to serve beer and margaritas. There will be no bar at the new restaurant.
“This whole concept is really a food concept, it’s not a destination drinking location,” said David Scribner, the co-owner of Georgetown Events. “What we’re going to offer is something really great for the island: food that is fast, reliable, not too expensive, and where you can get in and out quickly. It’s not going to be a place you’re going to go to have multiple drinks.”
Voting in favor of the new license for Surfside were Select Board members Dawn Hill Holdgate, Matt Fee, and Brooke Mohr. While they all expressed concerns about adding a new all-alcohol liquor license to a location that previously did not have one and has long been a late night hangout for island teens, they also acknowledged the establishments in close proximity that have been granted liquor licenses.
Those include NanTaco on South Water Street, the Dreamland Theater, the Whaling Museum, the Greydon House, The Beet, and PPX. They also acknowledged the former Schooner’s restaurant on Easy Street had long operated as a bar and restaurant across the street.
“I’m struggling with knowing the vibe of the Strip that starts to happen after a certain time at night,” said Hill Holdgate. “I really want to help a restaurant that will be more of a casual, family friendly type of establishment to be successful, and we're in danger of losing more and more of those on this island. I like the concept, and I think putting safeguards - drinks have to be served directly to the seat and I think 9 p.m. would be more appropriate than 10 p.m...I remember when Schooner’s was in full swing, and it’s right there. And way closer to the ferry. So I'm finding the necessity for conditions to manage it, but I don’t see a really great basis for an outright denial.”
Select Board member Matt Fee, whose family previously owned the property at 2 Broad Street and ran it as Henry’s sandwich shop and then leased it to Bart Gangemi who ran Tacos Tacos and the Easy Street Cantina, emphasized that they chose not to sell alcohol at the location.
“My parents didn’t do alcohol there specifically because it was the Strip and young kids,” Fee said. “Our tenants, we had that precluded from the lease. It wasn't’ a town thing, it was a family thing for that area. I think it has to be very controlled and has to start slow and prove it. Prove that it’s not going to be an issue.”
The two "no" votes were chair Jason Bridges and Malcolm MacNab. They both expressed similar concerns about adding a new alcohol license to the Strip, and the precedent it could set for other establishments there. While the town’s licensing administrator and other members of the board emphasized that no other business on the Strip had the potential to add a liquor license - with the exception of Stubby’s with just a handful of tables - they cautioned that things could always change in the future. What if Young’s Bicycle Shop eventually sold and was converted into a restaurant, Bridges asked.
While he praised the Georgetown Events team for the family friendly atmosphere it had created at Millie’s in Madaket, the Strip is a different equation, Bridges said.
“If there’s alcohol there, it will change the complexion of who’s there. It just will,” Bridges said. “It will become less of a teen hangout. It’s just different when there’s alcohol there.”
For MacNab, it wasn’t just about the possibility of someone handing alcohol over the fence on the patio of the property - a possibility raised by Mohr which MacNab echoed - but also the precedent it would set along that portion of Broad Street.
“Yes we need more restaurants like that but I'm still concerned about alcohol creep.” MacNab said. “I see it steamrolling. I’m waiting for a good excuse why we should approve it. Yes we need more family restaurants, but I’m waiting for a good explanation as to why we need this...I’m very very concerned that the whole character of the Strip will change. That’s an area of lots of young people, people coming off the island. I’m not sure whether it’s in the interest of the island or the interest of the community to have alcohol on the Strip.”
Attorney Rick Beaudette, who represented the Georgetown Events team during Wednesday night’s hearing, said he was keenly aware of the concerns regarding alcohol on the Strip as he is the father of two teenagers himself.
“I have a 14-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son, and they love the Strip,” Beaudette said. “They’re there every night in the summer. And to be perfectly honest with you, the least of my worries is that they're going to get alcohol from a licensed establishment. And the reason is twofold. Number one, these licenses are important to the businesses. They don’t mess around. They’re not going to let anyone give anything over the fence. The second reason, and I can say this because my daughter is playing a hockey game and my son is off-island: I track their phones. I know where they are. They are everywhere downtown, they’re not just on the Strip. They’re walking by the Gazebo, they’re going to Jack and Charlie’s to get ice cream. They’re going by Cru and the wharf. Any of those places, someone could hand them a drink. As a parent, it's not a major concern of mine at all. I have more concerns about what they do at Children’s Beach, quite honestly.”
The Select Board also heard concerns about the Georgetown Events team’s track record at Millie’s from Madaket resident Bruce Mandel, who mentioned overcrowding, noise, and trash in the west end neighborhood surrounding the restaurant.
“The Madaket Conservation Association has been working hard to bring the neighborhood disturbance and disruption into better alignment with the peaceful nature we like,” Mandel said. “It would be helpful if people who want to open up a place like this on the Strip would take the time to address this...These are issues we had with this management that have not been been resolved to the satisfaction of the community.”
Beaudette acknowledged those issues, but said the Millie’s team deals with them on an annual basis, and has its team voluntarily pick up trash and use its own its dumpster to clean the area around the restaurant.
Slated to open in May of 2023, the Surfside restaurant will be modeled after Georgetown Events' other Surfside restaurant located in Washington D.C., albeit with slightly different fare.
Co-owner Bo Blair previously told the Current that Surfside will be open seven days per week, offering "fast casual" breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night options. The operation will be open seven months per year, and will have Baja-style and coastal food offerings, including seafood and salads.
"We love that location for being able to do food all day and all night," Blair said. "We're going to have a cool breakfast, and great late-night items and an awesome lunch and dinner menu. It will be fast, healthy options, a lot of seafood and salads. I would call it coastal from around the world."
Entrees will range between $15 and $25, Blair said.
"In general, we want to be able to feed people quickly and with really high quality food," he added.
Watch the full hearing on the Surfside liquor license below: