PROVINCETOWN — The owners of the Foxberry Inn at 29 Bradford St. Extension were granted a request to expand their liquor license to allow for an outdoor bar and permit them to serve drinks to guests of those staying at the inn, but the zoning board of appeals says it will be closely watching to make sure this summer is not a repeat of what neighbors say happened last year.
While applications to expand an innkeeper’s license to serve alcohol are fairly common, at the board’s Feb. 16 hearing Chair Jeremy Callahan called the request from Foxberry Inn owners Matthew Verge and Daniel Spinello unusual on two counts: the inn’s location in the Residential-1 zone and the amount of opposition it stirred.
“We don’t usually get a lot of folks lining up to express their dissatisfaction with the application and their desire for it not to be passed,” Callahan said. “And I find it significant that we don’t have anyone here that would like to speak in favor.”
Calling it a “second chance,” board members approved the license expansion for a single season only, saying they want to see how it goes. Hours for outdoor service will be noon to 9 p.m. The owners had requested 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The expansion of alcohol service was one of two requests made by Verge and Spinello, who purchased the property in 2018.
The second request, which the zoning board will consider on March 16, is for a special permit to add a third story to the building, increasing its capacity from 12 guest rooms to 18. The owners are also looking to add a half story to the adjacent house, labeled on plans as the “management quarters.” The expansion also needs a special permit for coming up five spaces short of the required amount of parking.
More than 100 pages of comments had been submitted to the board regarding the innkeepers’ alcohol service and the proposed expansion. Two letters were from law firms representing the board of trustees of the Harbor Hill Condominiums and Herring Cove Condominiums. While there were a number of emails in support of the inn’s requests, those came predominantly from fellow business owners and residents who don’t live nearby.
In his multi-page letter of concern, Harold Wetterland, who lives directly across the street from the inn with Anthony Yaeger, gave a colorful version of events since the inn changed hands in 2018. There have been plenty of “red flags,” Wetterland said.
The owners were away for the winter of 2021-2022, Wetterland said, and rented the management quarters to a couple with a 150-pound pig and an outdoor cat. “The quaint front yard became a ratty pigpen,” Wetterland wrote. “I felt horrible when the pig spent hours screaming at the door to go back in the house, and the cat spent a lot of time bellowing under our deck and hunting our birds.”
Regarding the expansion of alcohol service, Wetterland wrote, “Our long-established summer pleasures were destroyed in every way” by the patrons stopping for an outdoor drink at the Foxberry Inn last summer.
Wetterland wasn’t alone. Both in letters and during the hearing, abutters complained about outdoor liquor service at the Foxberry Inn last summer, even though the license at the time limited service of alcohol to those who were staying at the inn.
“The request, as portrayed, sounds reasonable,” said Herring Cove condo owner Damian Szary at the hearing. “But we have a summer of operating history, and serving guests and guests of guests is not what happened,” said Szary. “Everyone here knows this is the main way home and the first stop from the beach.” The bar area was open to the public, he said.
Attorney Christopher Somma, representing both the trustees of Harbor Hill Condominiums and Anthony Yeager of 30 Bradford St. Extension, pointed out that the town issued a cease-and-desist order last summer when 30 to 60 people were having drinks at the Foxberry. “There was noise, there were pedicabs parked in front, there were bicycles everywhere,” Somma said. “This is not Commercial Street. This is not the Boatslip.”
Spinello argued that the situation being described happened just once, when the sewer shutdown closed bars in the center of town and the Foxberry Inn was one of the few businesses that still had sewer service. “It certainly was not planned, and it wasn’t something we sought out,” Spinello said.
“I acknowledge and accept that we failed to control it on a single day,” Spinello said, adding that a similar situation “never happened after that or before that.” Spinello characterized what had happened as “admittedly a hot mess.”
Zoning board member Peter Okun wasn’t convinced that violations of the innkeeper’s liquor license had been limited to a single instance. Okun cited an email of support submitted by Provincetown resident Stephen Collins, who wrote, “One of the more fun things my year-round and visiting friends did this past summer was spending time at the new bar area at the Foxberry.” The letter went on to say the Foxberry “has become a new destination for residents in town.”
Collins’s comments made it clear that Spinello and Verge were running a bar open to the public last summer, Okun said. “That is not what an innkeeper’s liquor license is supposed to do,” he said.
Spinello responded that he and Verge believed they were complying with the terms of their license last summer. Now they have a clearer understanding of what their innkeeper’s license allows, he said. This summer, he said, the staff will check IDs to make sure patrons are guests or guests of those registered at the inn.
“We want our guests to be able to invite a friend and sit in a calm environment in the yard and enjoy a drink,” said Spinello. “We just want to make use of our front yard, and we want our employees to benefit from tip money.”
The operation is fairly small, he added: “We know who’s coming and going.”
Neighbors expressed doubt that the system would work, but the zoning board unanimously voted to give Verge and Spinello the one-season license expansion.
The board already has in hand letters of opposition to the requested additions of a third floor to the motel and a half story to the managers’ quarters. In their letters, neighbors said the mass of the inn would be out of character with the neighborhood, cited the lack of parking, and argued their views and property values would be affected by the expansions.