Red Cat building gets new owners

Will stay home to popular Oak Bluffs eatery.

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The Red Cat building is under new ownership, but the restaurant remains an important tenant.

The building that houses the popular Oak Bluffs eatery Red Cat Kitchen — a favorite of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama —  was sold by Thomas G. Ward and Carol L. Hulak to Chilmark resident and Los Angeles record producer Gary Jones, operating as GJ & BP Holdings LLC for $690,000. Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish is a partner in the transaction.

The building once held Zapotec restaurant, followed by Ken N’ Beck. Restaurateurs Ben DeForest and Sarah Omer took over the 14 Kennebec Ave. space in 2012, and it’s been Red Cat ever since.

Speaking to The Times on Tuesday, Packish said the building is in rough shape and was in clear need of attention.

The Carpenter Gothic/Campground style building was built in 1858, and is currently listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System.

The building was originally owned by William H. Davis and was home to a paint shop. The home was part of the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Co. development, a secular alternative to the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association.

The Red Cat has also been on a year-to-year lease. By purchasing the building, the focus is to keep the Red Cat serving food well into the future.

“The Red Cat is important down there,” Packish said. “It seemed like a good opportunity to stabilize them.”

Without getting into specifics, Packish said a few things will be stabilized in the building before a permanent process begins. He also plans to talk with DeForest and Omer to figure out the best plan moving forward. There’s still plenty of planning and permitting to do, but Packish said he’s hopeful for an October 2020 construction date.

As a selectman, Packish said most liquor license issues downtown will be addressed by a disclosure of ownership and some will require Packish to recuse himself, such as an abutting property applying for a liquor license. Selectman Michael Santoro, a restaurant owner, already sits out liquor license votes.

“I eat there frequently, it’s good food for sure,” Packish said. “It’s a cool one and it’s a fun one and I think it’s a good thing for the town … Great owners running a great operation.”

Also speaking to The Times on Tuesday, DeForest, who also operates the Cardboard Box and Oyster Bar 02557 on Circuit Ave., said he was excited about the purchase.

“The Red Cat is going to have a home for a long time to come and it’s an exciting time,” DeForest said. “We’re really excited that [Packish] and [Jones] came in … they’ve been really clear and transparent about what they want to do.”

The Red Cat Kitchen will close for the season at the end of November, and will reopen on April 1, 2020.