Nomans corrects mistake in alcohol license

Neighbors raise wider concerns about grandfathered establishment.

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Oak Bluffs selectmen approved a revised alcohol license for Nomans. Some neighbors objected to alcohol being allowed on the restaurant lawn.

Oak Bluffs selectmen approved additional seating at Nomans after the restaurant made a mistake in its alcohol license application. 

New Bedford businessman Horacio Tavares purchased what was formerly Lola’s Restaurant from longtime owner Kathy Domitrovich in September. The space went under an extensive renovation, and reopened as Nomans in June. The restaurant has shifted from a nightclub to more of a family-friendly eatery.

Attorney Geoghan Coogan, who was representing Nomans, told selectmen the original application accidentally overlooked the exterior seating, and needed to be corrected for the restaurants’ Alcohol Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) license, which requires a seating chart.

There is no table service or bar in the outside area. Customers order and pick up food and drinks inside and are allowed to take them to the outside seating.

Several residents took issue with the alteration, and said the restaurant has made incremental changes over time, and is only allowed to operate in the residentially zoned area because it was grandfathered in.

Alfred Woollacott III, president of the Harthaven community association, which sits next to the restaurant, complained that Nomans expanded despite being grandfathered to operate in the residentially zoned neighborhood. He asked selectmen to deny their alteration permit.

“A yes vote will set a dangerous precedent that alterations can be undertaken before approval and further exacerbate problems that should have never occurred,” Woollacott said.

Several other residents and members of Harthaven took issue with the renovations, the live music, and parking.

Sam Low, an Oak Bluffs resident, took issue with picnic tables out on the lawn that were not shown on the new application.

“Serving to the tables is not the question; the question is carrying drinks that were served inside outside to the tables,” Low said. 

Andrew Moore, another resident, pointed to the history of the property. He said over the years each business that has been there has slowly expanded its footprint without process.

“We’re made to feel guilty that we’re trying to get this business to stay as it was supposed to be in the first place,” Moore said.

There was also disagreement over whether the seating increased or decreased once the restaurant switched hands. Low said the seating increased from 200 to 275, which constituted a significant alteration of premises, but chairman Brian Packish said the Title 5 septic system’s maximum capacity was 366, allowing the property to have any number of seats below that number.

Town administrator Robert Whritenour said the alteration did not appear to be significant, but said judgment ultimately fell to selectmen. “The extension of that patio with the liquor license appears consistent with the overall intensity of the use of the property,” Whritenour said.

Manager Doug Abdelnour said he didn’t understand the issues with the changes to the restaurant, saying Lola’s was a nightclub that stayed open until 1 am and had more seating. He argued that he has “pulled the reins back.”

“The use has gone down, the amount of seats that Kathy used to provide has gone down, the parking situation has gone down. It’s only making it easier for the neighbors,” Abdelnour said.

Selectman Gail Barmakian praised Abdelnour for the renovations, but said if the restaurant changes hands in the future and use intensifies, the neighbors have cause for concern. “On the other hand, the way it’s set up, there’s potential for abuse,” she said.

Selectmen approved the additional seating 4-0. Selectman Mike Santoro, who owns several restaurants, recused himself. As a concession to neighbors concerned about the restaurant and its future, selectmen conditioned no table service, and stipulated alcoholic drinks be cut off outside at 10 pm. Selectmen also asked for a written summary of the restaurant’s intent and what is on the premises.

“I think the challenge is the future, because any property in the future can turn into a variety of things,” Packish said. “We certainly don’t have a crystal ball.”

In other business, selectmen unanimously agreed to sign a contract with Local 5137 of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). The union ratified the contract, and it was also signed by bargaining unit members John Gonsalves and Mike Salvatore.

The town reached an agreement with the union in August 2018 to settle disputes that have plagued the department for the past few years.

“We want to take a moment to accept this contract … welcome the new unit, congratulate everybody on a whole lot of work to get to where we are, and look forward to a new chapter beginning for all of us,” Packish said.