Testimony on Senate Bill 158

Michael Nichols, The Esplanade Association

  • Thank you, Nick and thank you to the Committee for having us here today.
  • I am here to urge the Committee not to advance Senate Bill 158, which would effectively legislate beer and wine gardens out of existence in Massachusetts.
  • In a former role as Chief of Staff at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, I worked with Nick and Trillium to open the Trillium Garden three years ago.
  • Currently, I am Executive Director of the non-profit Esplanade Association which directly invests over $1 million of private support per year to revitalize, enhance, maintain and program the Charles River Esplanade in partnership with DCR and many stakeholders, including the tireless work, support and advocacy of our State Representative, Jay Livingstone.
  • Last summer we worked with DCR and Night Shift Brewing to open two family-friendly beer/wine/cider gardens along the Charles River which have each returned this year.
  • These locations and others like them have jointly brought hundreds of thousands of neighbors, workers, and tourists together in public spaces throughout the Commonwealth.
  • These activations result from public RFPs that invite breweries, wineries, restaurants, hospitality companies, and individual operators to put forth creative ideas for how to enliven our state’s public spaces.
  • Usually these activations result in adding sorely needed amenities – think bathrooms and bike racks – plus enhanced seating and gathering spaces for patrons and park visitors alike.
  • Further, this successful formula has created a new, important revenue stream to support the on-going care of our treasured – but under-resourced – public spaces.
  • This is certainly true of our relationship with Night Shift where a portion of every drink sold goes to DCR and a portion of every drink sold goes to the Esplanade Association – each to ensure improved care and maintenance of the park.
  • But for a non-profit like ours, the current law as written has allowed us to solve challenges on the Esplanade and attract new visitors.
  • Our Owl’s Nest beer garden exists in a concessions dessert, nearly a half-mile walk from the nearest restaurant and without another food or beverage concessionaire available in the park. Our audience of over 3 million annual visitors regularly cite the lack of places to get food and beverage in the park as an obstacle to their enjoyment of the Esplanade.
  • Enjoying a visit to the Owl’s Nest is part of a quintessential urban experience, providing respite from the city and an opportunity to enjoy nature and scores of free programming. It’s an experience we’ve worked hard to cultivate and ask that you not eliminate it through adoption of this legislation as written.
  • The issues facing the restaurant industry in Massachusetts are real, but they are not best addressed by stamping out popular alternatives that are embraced by thousands of state residents every day and support dozens of non-profits and small businesses.
  • I appreciate your time and ask that you not advance Senate Bill 158.