Lola’s back, alcohol license disputed

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A judge is set to rule today on a dispute over a liquor license for Lola’s Southern Seafood, the Oak Bluffs restaurant that reopened Friday following several weeks of swirling rumors and court action against the owners of the Mediterranean restaurant.

Lola’s owner, Kathy Domitrovich, would not elaborate on the reasons why she is back in business at the Beach Road restaurant where she operated Lola’s until 2008. The restaurant is serving its familiar southern seafood dishes, but is not serving alcohol.

Chefs Douglas and Leslie Hewson operated the Mediterranean restaurant there, under a lease agreement with Ms. Domitrovich, beginning in the spring of 2009, according to Ms. Domitrovich. The Mediterranean moved to Oak Bluffs, after operating a smaller restaurant on the Vineyard Haven waterfront for five years. The Mediterranean in Oak Bluffs had recently been operating with reduced hours and staff. Ms. Hewson did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, the two restaurateurs were in Edgartown Superior Court, where Ms. Domitrovich asked the court to force the Mediterranean to transfer its liquor license to Lola’s. In a phone conversation with The Times Tuesday, Ms. Domitrovich said a provision of the lease requires the transfer. The court took the matter under advisement and ordered the two restaurateurs to file further affidavits by 4 pm Wednesday, July 28. Ms. Domitrovich said the two sides were still negotiating the transfer of the alcohol license. She said a deal to transfer the license fell through last Friday, just before the restaurant opened.

Ms. Domitrovich said she has been overwhelmed at the response to the return of Lola’s, from many former patrons and the Island’s food industry community. She said 15 minutes before the scheduled opening on Friday, just as she was discussing whether to delay the opening for an hour because the staff wasn’t quite ready, she was surprised. Three Island chefs, Christian Thornton, head chef at Atria in Edgartown, Celeste Elser, chef at Biscuits restaurant in Oak Bluffs, and Marvin Jones, a local chef and caterer, arrived dressed in kitchen whites and aprons.

“They got right on my line, and they started cooking,” Ms. Domitrovich said, the emotion evident in her voice.

She also said about 20 members of the Polar Bear Club, an informal group of Oak Bluffs residents who swim each morning throughout the year at the Inkwell, were among the first patrons at the reopened restaurant, all of them dressed in their bathing suits.