The West Tisbury select board unanimously approved granting a malt and wine license to LCI Hospitality LLC, the prospective owners of Lambert’s Cove Inn, after a public hearing during a Wednesday, Jan. 12, meeting.
The public hearing allowed inn abutters to share their opinions about the inn’s activities. The prospective owners of Lambert’s Cove Inn are Jon and Stephanie Saunders. The couple’s attorney, Frederick C. Grosser, presented background information regarding the licensing and other aspects surrounding the inn.
“The present license is held by the Cove Road Inn, LLC. LCI Hospitality, with Stephanie Saunders as manager and 100 percent member, is seeking the seasonal wine and malt liquor license, and is not looking to expand the current licensing,” Grosser said.
Grosser also said the Saunderses are seeking a pledge of the license from the Martha’s Vineyard Bank, which would be the first lender on the property. The Saunderses also have other sources of income listed in the application.
“We are all happy to start out with a clean slate here,” Nick Puner, a neighbor of the inn, said. “Good fences make good neighbors.” Puner offered his wishes for the Saunderses’ success, but wants them to “contain this presence in our neighborhood, which is a residential neighborhood.”
Andy Kaye, who described himself as a next-door neighbor to the inn, welcomed the Saunderses to the neighborhood.
“I’m excited at the possibility of having new ownership,” Kaye said. He followed up by asking whether the license was new, or a transfer from Cove Road Inn, LLC, saying there were “challenges for the neighborhood” over the past few years because of the way the previous owners operated the property, and also broke their license by serving hard liquor. Kaye said he believed the Saunders will run the inn differently, but wanted more details.
West Tisbury town administrator Jeniffer Rand said that there was no functional difference between a transfer and a new license.
“As professionals and people that find a lot of pride in what we do, we will take the responsibility. There should not be hard alcohol served on the property,” Stephanie Saunders said. “We cannot say for sure what happened before, but that’s not something we’re going to allow of our staff.”
Stephanie also said she and Jon are currently looking to hire new staff with a “very different focus,” particularly by hiring on-Island workers.
West Tisbury select board chair Skipper Manter asked whether the Saunderses plan to become West Tisbury residents. Stephanie said no. She said the model of hiring locally alongside treating the staff well and with trust has worked for them, so there is no intention from them to change that. In particular, Jon and Stephanie Saunders are looking for an experienced innkeeper. The innkeeper would act as a manager and local contact for neighbors, which has worked well for Inn on the Sound, the inn the Saunderses own in Falmouth. The couple currently lives in Cohasset with two children.
“We have a great school system here,” Manter said.
“It’s tempting, you might win us over,” Stephanie said, laughing.
Manter said he would like to meet the new innkeeper once selected, so the neighbors can meet him or her. Stephanie agreed to that.
West Tisbury treasurer Kathy Logue said there were back taxes owed for the property, and asked whether that could be paid by the closing on the property. Grosser said it will be paid in full.
Lambert’s Cove Inn abuts several residential properties in the area. Some neighbors voiced concerns about a wedding to be held at the inn. A few letters were sent to the board asking for limitations on hard liquor, weddings, and inn expansions. There will be a wedding at the inn in the future because it was a reservation made with the previous owners, and alcohol can be served at the pool area because the state treats private events differently from restaurants, according to Grosser. The board agreed this would be fine, but limitations on weddings should be made going forward.
Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved a request from the West Tisbury affordable housing committee to refinance the affordable housing properties Brown, located at 2 Holly Lane and 82 Pin Oak Circle, and Merry, located 124 Pine Hill Road.
The board unanimously appointed Bethany Hammond as the assistant director of the Council on Aging.
The board discussed whether the ballot vote for the housing bank after the town meeting was binding. Manter said after reading it, it seems to be a binding vote. He would like a binding ballot vote, although it is uncertain whether a town meeting can happen in April because of COVID. A vote was not needed to accept this section of the housing bank draft warrant language as written.