Home Port restaurant sale nears

The sale of the Home Port Restaurant in Menemsha will be completed in the first week of February, and the well known Island seafood restaurant, complete with its popular "back door" take out window, will be open for business next summer, as it has for the past 85 years, prospective owner Bob Nixon said this week.

Current owners Will and Madeline Holtham and buyers Bob and Sarah Nixon had expected to close the sale this week, but the closing has been moved forward, according to Mr. Nixon.

"I asked Will for a little more time, and he was very gracious about it. The calendar was getting in the way," Mr. Nixon said this week from Washington D.C. where he and his wife, Sarah are involved in president-elect Obama pre-inaugural functions.

"We’ve met with the board of health, and we’ve told selectmen that we’ll run the restaurant as it has been operated. We would like to expand our business with commercial fishermen. We think we can do more purchasing of daily catches from local fishermen and lobstermen," Mr. Nixon said.

Debate raged in Menemsha this summer when selectmen called a special town meeting in late September to vote on town plans to acquire the property. The proposal envisioned a park, restroom facilities, additional public parking and a canoe/kayak landing.

In late August, the Nixons, who also own the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark, stepped forward and offered to buy the property if the town deal didn’t pass. In September, voters enthusiastically defeated the proposed town buyout of the property, opening the door for the private purchase.

Meanwhile, David Zeilinger, general manager of the Menemsha Inn and Cottages, also owned by the Nixons, is at work in Menemsha, readying offers for existing staff and planning interviews for a general manager, chef and restaurant managers.

Mr. Zeilinger said he is acting as general manager of the Home Port until the new managers are hired. "The Home Port will operate in the same way as Will and Madeline had it: the same menu, the same staff. We may replace a few of the picnic tables, but the ownership change will be invisible to the average visitor," he predicted this week.

Mr. Zeilinger said that the restaurant and the board of health are finalizing numbers for outside seating capacity. "We expect resolution soon. There is no change planned for inside seating, and we’ve reached agreement with the board of health on how to move forward, so we have something we can work with for planning outside. The count hasn’t altered much; how we count them is the discussion at this point," he said.