Edgartown selectmen order Arbor Inn to halt business

The inn has operated without a lodging-house license for seven months, and visitors report being scammed out of deposits.

The Arbor Inn on Upper Main Street in Edgartown has been operating without a lodging-house license since the end of December. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Edgartown selectmen voted unanimously on Monday to issue a cease-and-desist letter to the Arbor Inn on Upper Main Street. Selectmen made the decision after learning that owner Lorna Giles has operated without a lodging-house license since her annual license expired in December 2014, and that police have fielded several complaints about fraudulent bookings.

“First of all, they haven’t applied for a lodging-house license, and the Massachusetts general laws clearly state that you can’t operate without a lodging-house license,” town administrator Pam Dolby told selectmen. “There’s been a number of incidents at the Arbor Inn. Police have been called up there a couple times. People are paying for rooms there, and they’re getting there and the rooms either aren’t available or the place is locked up.

“She’s been told to cease and desist the operation of the business, and if she’d like to come in and speak with the board of selectmen, she’s welcome to do that,” Ms. Dolby said.

The Edgartown police department has reached out to popular travel websites such as Expedia and Kayak to have the listings for Arbor Inn removed, Officer William Bishop told town leaders.

“We spoke with the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, trying to get them to put something out,” Officer Bishop said.

Police said that despite complaints, their options are limited. Lieutenant Chris Dolby told selectmen that it was “a shame,” but that the situation exists in a gray area because there is not necessarily anything criminal about it.

“They have a number of documented incidents, so they probably shouldn’t be licensed,” Officer Bishop said.

“They aren’t licensed,” Pam Dolby corrected. “She’s been told to come in and get it.”

Selectman Margaret Serpa moved to send a cease-and-desist letter, which the board unanimously approved.

“People have been going through Expedia and Kayak to try to rent a room at that hotel,” Detective Michael Snowden told The Times on Tuesday morning. “They pay for it; once they get there, no one answers the door. The reservation is not on file with the hotel. So, it’s been kind of mismanagement on their part.”

Sometimes, he said, Arbor Inn guests are told to come back later that day. When they return, the doors are locked.

The Arbor Inn’s Facebook page says that the business has been in operation since 2001. The Arbor Inn’s website is currently not in operation. Ms. Giles did not return phone messages from The Times left on her business phone and home phone.