2014-05-08 / Opinion

Nothing Less – Nothing More

To the Editor:

On May 1, we were invited to attend a working lunch at the Marble House’s Japanese tea house as representatives of the Off Broadway Neighborhood Association (OBNA). The lunch was hosted by Trudy Coxe and members of the staff of the Preservation Society of Newport and its caterer. We were served light snacks, soft drinks and cookies, the same items available for purchase by guests visiting the Marble House during its six-month season.

At issue is whether or not the Preservation Society is required to obtain a victualing license from the City of Newport to serve catered sandwiches, soda and potato chips at the “Tea House” at the Marble House and the “ Carriage House” at the Elms…even though they have been serving these items at these locations for the last eight years. Trudy explained that a victualing license is really only a health and safety license, which should not be an issue as they were using a Newport-based catering company with all appropriate licenses and they are compliant with all health and safety requirements currently. So to obtain the requested license should be nothing more than a formality, or so they thought.

That is when things began to unravel. A viral disinformation campaign began, spreading rumors that the Society wanted to open restaurants at ALL their properties, that these “restaurants” would create havoc, destroy the “Bellevue Corridor,” mar the landscape with signs, flood Bellevue with busses and take business from local restaurants. All untrue.

We were invited to lunch to set the record straight, that the victualing license would be used for exactly the same thing that had been offered in the past. Light snacks, packaged sandwiches prepared by a licensed caterer and only offered at the locations currently providing these items today. Nothing less, nothing more. Offered to weary and lunch deprived guests who would welcome the opportunity to rest, and replenish themselves on a hot day. Many guests of the mansions are elderly or families with young children and all would welcome a place in the shade to have a soft drink and relax before continuing their visit. Without the license the mansions would not be able to offer these amenities.

I cannot think why the City of Newport would have any issue at all granting this license to the Preservation Society. The work they do to conserve and showcase these beautiful historical properties are at the heart of what draws visitors from around the world to Newport. We have traveled extensively and all major museum and historical venues we have visited have offered some type of refreshment for purchase by its guests; the Preservation Society should be no different. William Fitzgerald

Joan Jacobs


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