PROVINCETOWN — Seating on the beach is still an option for diners at Sal’s Place in the West End, despite the fact that a Mass. Land Court judge has ordered the restaurant’s owners to pay fines of $1,000 a day for violating his earlier instruction to remove the tables behind their neighbor’s house at 101 Commercial St.
In the latest battle in a six-year war between Sal’s owners, Michela Carew-Murphy and her mother, Siobhan Carew, and their neighbor Greg Connors, the judge has found the Carews in contempt of court. The $1,000-a-day fines began on July 23.
As of Monday, July 26, Sal’s was still seating people in the disputed spot.
Land Court Judge Michael Vhay issued an injunction in May, advising the Carews that they had to stop putting restaurant tables in the intertidal zone behind Connors’s home. The Carews have argued that the intertidal zone, between mean high and low water, is not Connors’s property.
Judge Vhay rejected that argument. Earlier this month, he wrote in a clarification of his original injunction that Siobhan Carew “suggests that for some shoreline properties in Provincetown, title to the beach ends at the mean high-water line. Ms. Carew has provided no facts on summary judgment from which this Court could conclude that 101 Commercial Street is among those properties.”
Both the Carews and Connors have declined to speak to the press and did not return calls seeking comment.
The conflict between the neighbors began soon after Carew purchased the restaurant in 2016.
Provincetown officials got involved in 2020, when the town issued a permit to allow Sal’s to place tables on the beach during the Covid-19 pandemic, when indoor seating was limited.
The select board has since declined to rescind or amend the permit. This was a problem for Connors, who has argued that the seating the town allowed is illegal.
The town’s attorney, Amy Kwesell of KP Law, did not provide an opinion on the use of intertidal zones for restaurant seating. But when the judge ordered the restaurateurs to remove the seats, she advised the select board to amend the permit so that seating would conform to the judge’s order.
“The ramifications are,” said Kwesell on July 12, “if we allow by license for seats to be in front of 101 Commercial, there is a very good chance that action will be taken against the town. I am not going to predict what kind of action.”
The select board, however, unanimously went against her advice.
Town Manager Alex Morse said last week that the town is not being fined along with Sal’s.
The select board voted to extend the seating permit until Nov. 1, or until the lawsuit with Connors is resolved.
Select board member John Golden said the judge and Kwesell did not provide clarity on the allowed uses of intertidal zones. Connors, Golden added, “is not a sympathetic character… He rents out his house. He isn’t even here.”
Select board member Louise Venden has a photo of herself and friends at one of Sal’s tables behind 101 Commercial St. at the top of her Facebook page. She said the photo is not an indication she is “taking sides.” The photo was taken on a beautiful night in September, before the injunction, Venden said.
The Carews try to give her free food every time she goes to Sal’s, but she declines because it is improper for a select board member to accept gifts, Venden added.
When asked why she voted against the advice of town counsel, Venden said, “KP Law is lame, OK?”