Pipedream LLC, which does business as the Anchor Restaurant on South Main Street, requested an occasional use permit for the dates of August 2 and September 18, to erect a tent and serve alcohol in their driveway. The permit request had originally come up at a selectboard meeting on June 4, and was tabled after opposition came from the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership (DVCP).
At that meeting, DVCP coordinator Cindy Hayford expressed concern with approval of the permit for the date of August 2. The DVCP, along with the chamber of commerce and Wilmington Works, is a sponsor of the Blueberry Block Party, an event that coincides with the Blueberry Festival, and is promoted as an alcohol-free party. Hayford said that the DVCP’s goal was to provide a family event that was alcohol-free, to show young people that alcohol is not needed at every event. If there is alcohol served outside, within the perimeters of the block party, Hayford said the DVCP would have to pull its sponsorship of the event.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, Anchor Restaurant owner Susan Lawrence said that while she had come to an agreement with the DVCP to not set up her outdoor tent on August 2, she would not withdraw her request for the permit, in an effort to stand up for business owners. “Responsible individual business owners should have the right to conduct business,” said Lawrence, “and there should not be a precedent set where a small group can bring their agenda forward and prevent us from doing business. I believe it would be a dangerous slope to head down if the board starts setting a precedent.”
The DVCP will still sponsor the block party this year, and has withdrawn their opposition to the permit request. “We sat down and said, ‘We both understood each other’s position and so what can we do to make it work for everyone?’” said Hayford. “Our goal was to have an alcohol-free event and, Susan’s goal was to be a partner in this, but not set the precedent for business owners. It’s a win-win.” Hayford also acknowledged that after speaking with other sponsors of the festival, she realizes the festival has become bigger than just a family event over the years, and the DVCP will be looking for a new venue to host their alcohol-free event next year.
Selectboard chair Jim Burke agreed with Lawrence, saying that government should not be influenced by special interests when making decisions that affect businesses. “If a permit is brought before the town and all criteria are met, this government body’s job is to pass the permit, not to force its or anyone else’s morality on a private business owner.”
“I think it’s a positive thing the two of you worked it out,” said selectboard member Susie Haughwout. Hayford said that while she was happy with the agreement, she was concerned with the idea that community groups shouldn’t have a say. “When a selectboard has a decision to make, they have to take into consideration what is best for the community, and what’s good for businesses. I’m disappointed with the stance that groups can’t come and have a conversation about these things. Our goal is preventing kids from using substances and if we look at our community, we want one that promotes that.”