The town is planning to put parking meters in the town-owned lot next to the beach-side Drunken Seal restaurant on Town Neck—much to the chagrin of the restaurant owner.
“They must want to hurt our business,” said Christopher G. Wilson, new owner of the Drunken Seal at 98 Town Neck Road. “It’s a difficult thing to say, but that’s the truth.”
The town plans to put a few central meters that would allow for people in the 55 public spaces pay for all-day use. The metered spaces would provide a trial run for the addition of meters at other beach lots.
Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham said on Thursday, June 20, that he did not yet know what the fee would be for parking in the metered lot, nor whether the meters would allow people to pay for only an hour or two, or whether they would have to pay to $20 all-day fee charged at other beach lots.
Residents with town-issued beach stickers will be able to park for free, Mr. Dunham said.
Mr. Wilson said the parking meters would affect his clientele, many of whom are tourists who come to dine by the water during the summer months. He understands the lot is public property but he also said the town shared the lot with the previous owners of the restaurant for more than three decades.
“I don’t get why they are doing this now, after all those years,” he said.
He said the current arrangement benefits not only his business but also beachgoers who use his bathrooms.
“Essentially we serve as a bathhouse for beach patrons, as did the previous restaurant,” Mr. Wilson said. “If they’re going to charge for parking they should at least add some bathrooms.”
David J. Sampson, chairman of the selectmen, said he understands Mr. Wilson’s plight, but that parking lot is the only one on the beach that provides no revenue to the town.
“We have to think of what is fair and what best serves everyone in the community,” Mr. Sampson said.
Many other Cape communities have benefited from installing parking meters, why should Sandwich not follow suit, Mr. Sampson asked.
The town manager said the town should not be asked to subsidize a private business. Nevertheless, Mr. Dunham added, the town has designated several spaces for the Drunken Seal and will allow cars to park throughout the lot for free after 4 PM.
Mr. Wilson said he will make arrangements for off-site valet and staff parking and hopes to ferry his staff to the restaurant via a bus or cart, but the idea of the parking meters rankles.
“They are not thinking of me, or my family, or the employees, or the people of Town Neck who have been using this parking lot for 30 years,” Mr. Wilson said. “It’s just not right.”
Mr. Wilson is the owner of The Belfry Inn & Bistro, Next Door Burger Bar and CW’s Cocktails and Wine—all on Jarves Street in Sandwich Village. Last spring he leased the Horizons on Cape Cod Bay property—which he has said he plans to purchase—and renamed it the The Drunken Seal.
Frank Kelleher bought the property in 1978 and operated Horizons restaurant for 28 years. He sold the business in 2006 but kept the property. It became the Hemisphere restaurant for a time but in 2014 Mr. Kelleher reacquired the bayside eatery and renamed it Horizons on Cape Cod Bay.
The property was listed for sale last year for $1.95 million.