Looking to the past to handle a contemporary problem, the owners of the Lampost, the venerable nightclub, bar, and restaurant on Circuit Avenue, originally built as a four-story hotel in the Victorian heyday of Oak Bluffs, have begun discussions with local permitting boards to allow the top three floors to be converted, or more accurately, reverted, into housing.
Co-owner Adam Cummings told The Times on Monday that the shortage of employee housing is the impetus behind the move. “We had a real problem with staff housing this summer,” he said. “We always have a problem, but this year was brutal. I had my entire staff hired in March, and half of them couldn’t find housing.”
Mr. Cummings said he typically hires 42 people for his summer staff. He said he considered buying a house for staff housing, but it made more sense to look internally.
“We have five floors here. The plan right now is to convert the top three floors for housing. The [Dive Bar] restaurant on the ground floor will stay. You have the Lampost that everybody knows; that will stay. The dance floor, the lounge, and the floor above it, that used to be hotel rooms, will all be converted into housing.”
Mr. Cummings said it will be dormitory-style housing, with 10 to 15 bedrooms on the third floor, with shared living areas, kitchen, and bathrooms. The project will be done in phases over the next two years. The plan for this winter is to convert the dance floor, the third floor, into staff housing. The other two floors would be converted the following winter, for a total of 24 bedrooms, if all goes to plan.
“I’ll be getting rid of the nightclub. My abutters are thrilled,” Mr. Cummings said. “We all get along, but they said, ‘We will sign whatever you need to get this done.’”
Mr. Cummings said he will draw on his experience from the recent top-down renovation of the Lampost. “The past three years I’ve been involved in the biggest renovation project in downtown Oak Bluffs,” he said. “I learned a lot. I’m not going to start this process until I am formally approved by everybody.”
Mr. Cummings is off to a good start. He received enthusiastic support from town selectmen after his presentation at Tuesday night’s meeting. “This is exactly what we need,” chairman Gail Barmakian said.
Selectmen voted unanimously to refer the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
“I hope it goes well,” he told The Times on Wednesday. “We open April 1, so we need to be swinging hammers within 30 days.”