One complaint

            Mama Mia!

We love our home on Chilton Street. Built in 1845 it sits atop an imposing set of granite stairs, looking down on a largely residential area with views of the harbor, Bug Light, Long Beach and – out the backdoor – the backside of one of the town’s favorite restaurants, Mama Mia’s.

            In the past two years’ the restaurant’s nearby presence was detectable, but only from the aroma of their sauce, the tinkling of glasses and silverware, and the constant comings and goings of customers. We have had guests who reserved with us say they were stopping over just to eat there.

            This year though, with Covid playing rough with many similar establishments, Mama Mia’s took advantage of the state’s offer to create outdoor dining and placed a few tables at the back of their alley off Water Street.

Good for them.

Bad for us is that, accompanying that change, we have been hearing music being played outside the restaurant at a level that, while admittedly not ear-shattering, was bothersome.

            You can only take so many doses of 70’s pop rock in a 24-hour period.

            ‘Brandy, you’re a fine girl,’ but give me a break!

            In any case we inquired at Town Hall, I won’t say complain, whether the restaurant had an outdoor entertainment license, or permit and, if so, what were its hours?

            We were hoping that perhaps they might limit the music to a few evening hours, perhaps Friday and the weekend: not the 10 to 10 all week we were being subjected to.

            We were surprised to find out that no, they did not have a permit, but claimed to have been playing music outdoors for thirty years?

            That seemed puzzling.

To top it off we were told that that now that we had raised the issue (I won’t say complained) they would likely request and receive the necessary permit.

            My first email to the town on this issue was on the Sunday (July 12) before we left for a short vacation, hiking in the western mountains, with no cell service.

            On Monday the 13th we were in a location that allowed spotty service, and, via email, I received the town’s response and responded with an expression of confusion. Again, why would the town award a permit, no questions asked, to an entity that had been violating the regulations for, by their own admission, 30 years?

            I thought at very least I would be given the opportunity to express my concern directly to the Board of Select Persons before they received approval, only to discover when I returned home that within two days of my query to the town Mama Mia’s had asked for and received a permit to broadcast music outdoors 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

            That was fast!

            But how did that happen?

            My letter of concern was received the previous Monday morning: one day before the board was to meet.

            To be part of that agenda the request had to have been made the previous Friday.

            Mama Mia’s had previously requested another entertainment permit – for their Pinehills location – in time to get it on the same agenda.

            The request for their Water Street location was not on the agenda of the meeting the next day.

            Still the Select Board took up the issue, and newly elected board member Dickie Quintal publicly acknowledged that he had spoken with the owners about this request – though he too only had one day’s notice?

            Yet there was not enough time to tell me it would be on the agenda, or give the general public a chance to comment?

            There’s my complaint (you knew it was coming): there was a rush to solve Mama Mia’s problem, but little concern with public notice.

            I don’t have a problem with Mama Mia’s: a business has to try to do what it can to survive, within the law.

            I think we can still be good neighbors.

            The town and I, however, have work to do.

(Let me add that I have nothing but good things to say about the professionalism of Lisa Johnson, the town’s expert on anything to do with liquor licenses. She responded quickly, honestly, and with detail.)

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