For a second summer, Main street Vineyard Haven will have a vacant space where Café Moxie used to be, following the latest setback in plans to rebuild the restaurant.
Paul Currier, owner of the building destroyed by fire last July 4, told Tisbury selectmen this week work on the rebuilding would stop until at least September.
Mr. Currier previously had hoped the restaurant would be finished and trading again before the anniversary of the fire.
But, he said, despite a “Herculean” effort by his staff and town officials, there now appeared no way to have it ready in time. At this stage, only the foundations are in place. Mr. Currier blamed difficulties with insurance for much of the delay.
He also suggested work could not proceed after Memorial Day, May 25, because of noise issues, and then assured the selectmen that the building would be ready before next year’s tourist season. He promised in the meantime to do tidy-up work on sidewalks around the building.
Mr. Currier’s misfortune is also the town’s, particularly coming into what is expected to be an economically difficult season.
“I know you’re doing your best, but I’ve just got to say from the town’s point of view, it’s disappointing,” said selectman Tristan Israel.
Board members then stressed that a concerted effort be made to make the site as attractive as possible under the circumstances.
The past nine months have been a long tale of woe for Moxie and Tisbury, from the time the fire began in Moxie’s basement early on Independence Day.
As well as Mr. Currier’s continuing difficulties in getting the money for the rebuilding project, there have been problems with the rebuilding itself.
About six weeks ago, it was discovered that the newly poured concrete foundation intruded onto town land along Centre street.
Work stopped while the owner and the town attempted to sort out the problem.
In its eagerness to have the café up and operating as quickly as possible, Tisbury quickly produced a memorandum of understanding which allowed work to proceed without needing to alter or replace the foundation.
In effect, this meant that the parts of the building below ground level could stay as they were, so long as the parts of the structure above ground did not encroach on town land. It meant shaving a few inches of concrete off above ground, but nothing major.
Problem solved. The town authorities assumed construction would proceed apace. Until about a week ago.
“I was shocked when I learned it was not going to be ready,” said Tisbury town administrator John Bugbee.
“There was nothing the town hadn’t done to get this project moving, all the resources, all the permitting. I expected it to be done before July 4.”
“It was a surprise, a shock, a big disappointment.”
Mr. Bugbee also disputed Mr. Currier’s suggestion that work could not proceed after Memorial Day, saying the town had no bylaws or objections against it continuing.
Mr. Currier was philosophical about it when he spoke to the Gazette this week, ahead of his appearance before the selectmen.
“It’s too bad, but you’ve got to make your peace with these things,” he said, adding:
“It really was a huge effort by people in the town, and the building people and all that, who really, really tried to help us pull this off, but at the end of the day, we ran out of time.
“We’ll have to go on hold until about September and that’s the way it goes. It’s better to hold off now, rather than having something that gets finished, and you miss the season anyway and have to carry the [debt service] on something not even open.”
The Moxie issue was not the only disappointment for the selectmen in a long and at times difficult meeting this week.
The board also heard that the town’s hopes for large-scale wind generation from a site on the town landfill had suffered a potentially fatal setback. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which provides funds for such projects, has rejected the site.
The town energy committee still is hoping to revive the plan by appealing for support from the state Department of Environmental Planning, but committee member Henry Stephenson said the most realistic prospects in the town either lie offshore, or in collaborations with other towns which have more prospective sites.
Tension also surfaced on the fraught issue of beer and wine sales in Tisbury.
Harbor master Jay Wilbur said if the proposal was successful, it would require a doubling of the budget for his department, so they could properly police drunks on the harbor.
Mr. Wilbur noted that the town of Plymouth has five armed people on duty year-round, and 21 in summer. In the town of Harwich, he said, when the tuna fishermen come in to drink, other people leave town.
On-Island, he said both Edgartown and Oak Bluffs have night police patrols on their harbors. Oak Bluffs has its own police boat, while he said Edgartown regularly transports drunks back to their boats.
And almost every year those two towns record deaths related to alcohol, while Tisbury has never had one, Mr. Wilbur said.
He was quickly rebuked by selectman Jeff Kristal, who is a strong supporter of the beer and wine proposal, which will come before town voters at the annual town meeting in two weeks.
Mr. Kristal said the selectmen’s meeting was not the right forum for Mr. Wilbur to raise his concerns, and in any case beer and wine sales are not being introduced for people on the harbor, only in restaurants.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t believe people are drinking on boats in the harbor and on Tashmoo,” Mr. Kristal said.
Selectmen also addressed a dog complaint relating to an attack on a pet goose by a dog which had been unrestrained in the Owen Park area.
The goose had to be euthanized by a vet, at a cost of $700.
The dog’s owner, Deborah Hart, had been fined three times last year for ignoring signs that dogs must be leashed while in the park.
She freely admitted to selectmen that she had been a wilful repeat offender, but she also had apologized to the owners of the goose, had paid part of the vet bill, and now said she understood the law.
Selectmen imposed a one-year restraining order and $200 bond requirement, warning that another offense would see the dog banned from town.
The owner also must take the dog for obedience training.