New Home Port owners plan longer season
The Home Port restaurant in Menemsha will open on Friday, May 22, under new owners but with a theme of business as usual - for now.
Bob and Sarah Nixon of Chilmark and Washington, D.C., completed the deal to purchase the restaurant from Will and Madeline Holtham for $2,337,500, on February 10.
Other than extending the season, little will change at the well-known landmark. "The back door (takeout) will open at 5 pm, and the dining room will open at 5:30, as it always has," acting general manager David Zeilinger said this week. "To the naked eye, things will be the same. You will notice no difference in the dining room. You'll be served by the same staff with the same menu as in the past."
He said there would be changes over time. "The current menu, developed over 35 years, is our starting point. We are studying it now to see where we go from there," Mr. Zeilinger said.
The Home Port season will extend beyond its traditional Labor Day weekend closing. Mr. Zeilinger told Chilmark selectmen last month the restaurant plans to add at least 20 more days to its season. "We know we'll be open beyond Labor Day but haven't determined our closing date," he said this week.
There will be operational changes. These will include an updated computerized ordering system and an online reservation system that may become operational during the 2009 season. "Those changes should make it more enjoyable for diners and easier for staff to serve them," Mr. Zeilinger said, adding that the search for restaurant and dining room managers has begun.
A low-key season opening follows a well-publicized effort to purchase the restaurant that began last August when the Nixons made a successful offer to former owner Will Holtham, just before a special town meeting to consider a town purchase of the 86-year-old restaurant property. Supporters wanted to replace the restaurant with a public park and water access development project that was the subject of long and loud public debate in town.
In September, voters rejected a town purchase, opening the way for a purchase by the Nixons, who also own the Beach Plum Inn and the Menemsha Inn and Cottages in Chilmark.
Mr. Zeilinger said he is completing permit applications to the town board of health that will change the arrangement and perhaps the number of outdoor patio seats, though the familiar picnic tables and benches will remain for now. Last month, the Chilmark selectmen granted a common victualer's license to the Home Port.
As Mr. Holtham has done in the past, the Nixons will allow the town to use the restaurant parking lot during the day when the restaurant is not in operation.