Shanty Deserves A Local Chance

This week, I googled the “history of Falmouth Heights” and encountered a brief but engaging glimpse at the origins of this treasured section of our community. In it, the author, Nick McCavitt, noted the following:

“Before the year 1870, what is now the Falmouth Heights area was known simply as the Great Hill. The area surrounding the Great Hill was largely untouched, save for the salt works that were found by the shore of Deacon’s Pond. All that changed when a group of Worcester businessmen happened upon the land after a visit to Martha’s Vineyard. Their original plan for purchasing the land was to turn it into a A-list summer resort that would include cottages, hotels, stores and various means of transportation over the 100 acres of the Great Hill.”

 

If Nick is correct, and some additional research suggests that he is, the very origins of Falmouth Heights were as a summer hang-out, a place where families came to enjoy the natural beauty and agreeable environs. Although the A-list plan didn’t pan out, the resort portion did. A sign on Falmouth Heights Road, sponsored by the Falmouth Heights-Maravista Improvement Association, identifies this village as the area’s “First Planned Resort Community,” confirming for all who live and visit that this place has a special identity as a summer destination.

Given that rich history, the histrionics of a few locals in discouraging another couple of locals from pursuing continued success at their family-friendly restaurant in the village were not only disappointing, they were inconsistent with the village’s own raison d’etre.

As I watched the recent selectmen’s meeting where the locally owned Silver Shores Shanty sought to extend its afternoon entertainment license from weekends to daily during the summer season, the loud and sometimes offensive rebuke offered by a small number of neighbors rivaled the “acoustic trespassing” of which they accused the Shanty. Our democratic republic is built on dissent, and our open government encourages input, but the throw-down exhibited by these residents was simply a naked attempt at ridding Falmouth Heights of one of the few places left where a family can simply enjoy a post-beach ice cream, a plate of whole-bellied clams, a cold beverage, and some local musicians. That sounds like Americana to me; it was portrayed as a noise pollution-emitting nuisance by them.

Now entering its third season of food and fun for Falmouthites and visitors alike, the Shanty is the Falmouth Heights version of the fabled “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. Owners Bob Flynn and local standout Ted Murphy greet all comers with a wide smile and a welcome staff. They have created a fun-filled family atmosphere that hasn’t existed at that site since the renowned “Shrubs” served great food and even greater jokes there in my youth.

The objections to extending the license—for music during daylight hours—just didn’t add up. Our tourist economy depends on thriving businesses like this one, and the modest request was for tasteful, reasonable, and merited extension. The neighbors’ objections were unfair and unwarranted. Even Falmouth legend Andy Dufresne, whom I nominated for the “All-Falmouth Team” when I feted the occasion of his 80th birthday in a laudatory column, should be benched for his comments. His direct attack on selectman Sue Moran, scolding her and noting that he would “come at her” if she continued to disagree with him, was a low point in the discussion—and a low point of deportment for our usually beloved octogenarian gadfly.

Our stalwart selectman held her own, though. “Falmouth has to be aware of how much we depend on our economy—local folks employing local folks. We have to be careful on putting handcuffs on private businesses,” she opined, offering a voice of reason during an otherwise unreasonable debate.

And that’s really the only point made that bears repeating. The Shanty is a local place, owned by local folks, employing local youth, serving local food. They deserve a local chance —not local handcuffs.

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