WELLFLEET — The Beachcomber, the Pearl, and Mac’s Shack will ask the select board on June 9 to be allowed to serve alcohol outdoors. Each restaurant hopes to set up tables in its parking lot.
In a normal year, the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) would also need to approve the outdoor service, a process that would take about eight weeks to complete. This year, it would have likely taken even longer, due to the enormous statewide demand for expanded outdoor seating. But on Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order granting local licensing boards the authority to approve outdoor alcohol sales.
This means the select board could grant the approvals on June 9.
Alcohol sales are crucial to the very survival of restaurants, which are already looking at fewer customers and reduced seating this year, said state Sen. Julian Cyr, whose parents owned the Truro restaurant Adrian’s.
“This is great news,” Cyr said. “What our business owners need right now is predictability.”
The Pearl, near the Wellfleet Marina, has a tent in its parking lot with a bar and tables, which would allow it to serve guests in the open air.
“People should be able to have wine with their lobster roll if they want to,” manager Allison Hester said.
The Beachcomber, at Cahoon Hollow Beach, is moving 12 indoor tables to the southwestern corner of its parking lot and adding a bar with an umbrella.
“With social distancing, everybody is seeing how important this is,” said Beachcomber owner Todd LeBart. “Serving alcohol is a big part of our business.”
Mac Hay, owner of Mac’s Shack on Commercial Street, sees serving liquor outside as a last resort to save the business.
“We are trying to make the most out of the worst situation, and this is an opportunity to just try to get open,” said Hay. “It’s a Hail Mary — we just throw it up there and, hopefully, we can catch it and keep moving forward.”
Without the license, Mac’s Shack will not be able to open at all, Hay said, as it would cost him more to staff the restaurant than he would make with reduced capacity.
A shuttered restaurant affects not just owners, staff, and customers but also local farmers and fishermen.
“The alternative to not opening?” There isn’t a good one, Hay said. “It’s devastating to everybody.”
Pending action in the state legislature became unnecessary when Gov. Baker issued his executive order allowing local licensing authorities — in Wellfleet’s case, the select board — to approve outdoor alcohol service without ABCC approval, until the order is rescinded or by Nov. 1.
There is local support for the idea. Wellfleet Fire Chief Richard Pauley has recommended serving food and alcohol outdoors during the 2020 season, pending review of the seating plan by local health and fire inspectors.
“As we all know, the summer business season on Cape Cod is very short, precarious, and unpredictable,” Pauley wrote to the select board last week. “I believe the approval of this measure would help to assist the restaurant/establishment owners in maintaining a viable business plan during this difficult economic time and provide for better public health and safety conditions in these establishments. I have discussed this with the health agent, building inspector, and police chief, and we are unanimous in this opinion.”