After more than an hour of debate before the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Monday night, August 19,owners of the Tea Room in New Silver Beach withdrew their application for a seasonal all-alcoholic beverage license.
Michael Pacella, whose family has owned the Tea Room, at 196 Crystal Spring Avenue, North Falmouth, for 32 years, proposed to expand the menu by offering handcrafted cocktails, including mojitos and sangria, in a serving area separate from the ice cream counter and game room.
The application, which would have allowed the Tea Room to serve these drinks from 11 AM to 11 PM daily, split the neighborhood. The selectmen’s meeting room and adjacent hallway were packed full of New Silver Beach residents, looking to speak out in favor and against the proposal.
Anne-Marie Moore of Silver Beach Avenue argued that there is no need for another restaurant that serves alcohol in the neighborhood, as there are already eight within a three-mile radius of the Tea Room that do so. In addition, Ms. Moore said its location in a residential neighborhood presents a danger.
“There is no, and I want to say again, no on-street parking and limited, narrow sidewalks,” she said. “The beachgoers and bike riders use the street to get from place to place. The added congestion and the likelihood of DUI from the local establishment is another safety issue.”
Dennis E. O’Connell of Silver Beach Avenue said granting the license would create a public safety issue, as children often ride their bikes in the streets to the tennis courts, harbor and beach.
“The concern is, when alcohol is being served from 11 o’clock to 11 o’clock, which we just found out and was not mentioned at the meetings, these children are in jeopardy,” Mr. O’Connell said. “This is a public safety issue, where people will be on the road from 11 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night, with kids riding up and down the street.”
Prior to Monday night’s selectmen meeting, Tea Room owners held a neighborhood meeting. Some members of the community found this notification inadequate.
“I’m opposed, because the first time the neighborhood heard about this Tea Room license was through the paper,” said Penelope Fleming of Silver Beach Avenue. “Nobody knew he applied for a license.”
Ms. Fleming said Tea Room owners were unable to produce a business plan at that public meeting.
“Until there is a good business plan and the community can understand that business plan, I oppose it,” she said.
Carolyn Halloran of New Silver Beach said a liquor license should not be granted to a business surrounded by 600 residential homes, all with children or grandchildren.
“I feel the potential negative effects of a seven-day liquor license, with respect to traffic, parking, public safety, public health, noise, trash and public disturbances, shouldn’t be underestimated,” Ms. Halloran said.
She added that the argument the Tea Room could close without an all-alcoholic beverage license was “irrelevant,” as the restaurant has successfully operated without a license for many years.
Although Mr. O’Connell presented selectmen with a petition signed by more than 100 people opposed to the the Tea Room’s all-alcoholic beverage license application, many neighbors turned out to support its request.
Lloyd Beckett of Wickertree Road attempted to address the concerns of those opposed to granting the application. Noting Ms. Moore’s statements, those concerned about people driving under the influence should know people already drive to eight nearby restaurants that serve alcohol. He argued this would not be the case with the Tea Room.
“If you go down to Mike’s to get a beer, you will walk down and walk back,” Mr. Beckett said.
He noted the community previously had a place to drink, at the Beer Garden and the Silver Beach Hotel. The Beer Garden was destroyed in the 1938 hurricane, while the hotel was demolished in 1957.
“Having a place to drink in the community wasn’t a bad thing in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, so I ask why it is now,” he said.
David Sarafinas of Ravenwood Road said Mr. Pacella would properly manage the consumption of alcohol at the Tea Room.
“He is not one to put up with any nonsense, I’ll tell you that,” Mr. Sarafinas said. “He’ll be able to monitor it.”
He added that granting the all-alcoholic beverage license is necessary for the Tea Room to remain in the neighborhood.
“The couple years the Tea Room wasn’t open, it was a completely different atmosphere here,” he said.
Paul Hunt of Ravenwood Road argued that those opposed to the Tea Room’s application do not support the business anyway.
“As far as some of the people in opposition to the Tea Room, having Mike and Holly make some money in the two-month period that it is open, I have never seen them in the Tea Room,” Mr. Hunt said, noting some of those opposed did not know the Tea Room served food.
“Most of the people in opposition to the Tea Room don’t support it anyway, so why would they care?” he asked. “These guys have dedicated their lives to the community and I think they should be applauded for what they do, not condemned. At least give them a shot.”
Marc P. Finneran of Trotting Park Road asked the board whether a restaurant with a common victualler license has been denied an all-alcoholic beverage license because of its location before. Although members indicated package stores had been denied because of their location, they could not name an already permitted restaurant denied for this reason.
“I don’t recall anyone every being denied with a common victualler license and a record that is pretty much spotless, I think,” Mr. Finneran said.
In addition to neighborhood concerns, the board of selectmen took issue with an element of the Tea Room’s application. Although the application included a floor plan, it did not clearly show where alcohol would be served and how that serving area was separate from the children’s area, not did it show where alcohol would be stored.
“I would not approve an all-alcohol license with the plan that is before,” Selectman Douglas H. Jones said.
Given this, Matthew M. Terry, attorney with Ament Klauer LLP, asked if the restaurant could withdraw its application without prejudice. This withdrawal was allowed. He indicated that the Tea Room would re-apply next year for a seasonal license.
In addition to improving the floor plan, Selectman Douglas C. Brown said this gives the applicant a chance to work with the neighbors and engage in additional community outreach.
“A lot of the people who were not in favor of granting the license were supportive of you and the family,” Selectman Brown said. “I would suggest maybe you consider going back to the neighborhood association, try to get a consensus of what is really desired, and then maybe designate your place as residents only, so you don’t get an influx of vehicles from out-of-town.”