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Loose ends / David Tranchida: St. Clair basher was out of line

WOW. He really said that? In Thursday’s story about plans to add beer and wine to the menu at St. Clair Annex in Watch Hill, a lawyer representing abutters said, essentially, that customers of this locally owned and family-staffed icon can’t be trusted to handle their alcohol the way patrons of a neighboring restaurant and the nearby Watch Hill Yacht Club and Misquamicut Club can. That’s how I took the comment, but you be the judge.

Attorney James Hall of Providence said that allowing the Nicholas family to serve beer and wine would change the character of Watch Hill by “putting a beer tap” within walking distance of the beach and the historic flying horse carousel.

“This is not akin to what is done at the Olympia Tea Room or the Watch Hill Yacht Club or the Misquamicut Club,” Hall said.

What exactly does that mean? And where do I begin?

The Olympia Tea Room and the clubs have full bars, not just beer and wine.

Does a club membership preclude overindulgence in libations?

The Olympia is family owned and family operated too, but can every bartender keep track of every customer when it’s shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar in August?

As for more beer and wine changing the character of Watch Hill ... we have to wonder if Mr. Hall has ever stepped foot on a boat.

And, more to the point, are those of us who frequent St. Clair’s somehow different, somehow less responsible, somehow ... less as human beings and beneath those who are regulars at Olympia or members of the clubs?

Good God, man. What a disparaging, pompous, nonsensical comment to make.

The Nicholas family, just like the Felber family at the Olympia, has a lot riding on its business reputation. Both families live in the community year-round, their businesses are essentially part of the family trees, and both families want to be able to walk through McQuade’s and not feel a need to hide. Both families take great pride in their establishments. To draw a distinction is absurd, hurtful and shameful. We know lots of folks who are members of the clubs, but who exactly is responsible for the conduct of members to the degree that the Nicholases would have to be responsible for their patrons? Has no one driven away from either club over the limit? Fortunately, the Nicholases won, and I have every confidence that my wife and I won’t have to dodge any drunkards when we go in for our inaugural lobster roll with drinks.

Perhaps from a lawyer’s perspective, there is the need to look at what might happen years down the road if a beer and wine permit is allowed at a particular site. We don’t see a Hooters in the offing. We don’t see the morals of children walking with ice cream cones being ruined for life if the Nicholas family is allowed to pour me a beer.

And on a related note, it appears noble that those who have voiced opposition to this plan have raised concerns about septic issues. But that argument is hollow. Town regulations will govern this plan. What’s good for one restaurant is good for the other. Mr. Hall informed the members of the Zoning Board that they “can’t just take people’s words for certain things,” referring to the Nicholases’ descriptions of the next chapter in the long history of St. Clair Annex. Yet we are to take his word for what might happen?

He owes an apology to the Nicholas family and to the community for his insulting comments.

This is the personal opinion of David Tranchida, editor of The Sun.

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