For loyal customers, the heart and soul of Oak Bluffs has returned: Lola’s is back in business. On Friday night at 10 p.m., the parking lot was full, the music was playing and friends were dancing, rejoicing in the reopening of the restaurant. It was as if it never left.
“It’s like prohibition is over!” one customer declared. “Our Island is a happy place again,” said another.
Lola’s Southern Seafood on Beach Road reopened 10 days ago; after the Mediterranean Restaurant unexpectedly announced it would close, there was no other option except to return it to its original purpose, said owner Paul Domitrovich.
“It’s good to be back, it’s like it never changed,” he said, tearing up. “It feels wonderful to be back home.”
Mr. Domitrovich and his wife Kathy (who is also Lola), were greeting guests who were all smiles to return to the southern-style restaurant. Five hours earlier the Domitroviches had seen their liquor license transferred back into their name after a brief court scuffle with the Mediterranean owners Douglas and Leslie Hewson. Mediterranean had leased the restaurant space from the Domitroviches last year and moved their establishment there from its former spot on the Vineyard Haven harbor. The owners have not said publicly why the restaurant was suddenly closed.
But on Friday night the main thing people cared about was that Lola’s was open again.
“It’s a miracle,” Mrs. Domitrovich said. “It’s the same vibe, good music. This age group had nowhere to go. It was a niche that we filled and we’re glad to be back.”
Customers were balancing drinks in their hands as they maneuvered through the crowd, just like any other bar on the Vineyard, except this generation was listening to Otis Redding, not Lady Gaga. The 40-plus crowd was dancing to a live band singing Good Time by Earth, Wind and Fire, singing along and participating in call-back games with the lead singer. When she shouted, “Somebody scream!” everyone screamed.
Regular Thom Phiebig was one customer who was happy to have a place again for him and his wife to enjoy nightlife. “When the restaurant was sold you would run into people on the street and ask each other where are you hanging, and we didn’t have an answer,” he said, taking a break from the dance floor. “Last summer every night after dinner around nine o’clock my wife and I said where do we go, there is no Lola’s.
“No one cares who you are or what you do for a living or how you look. Everyone is made to feel at home,” he added.
For customers who needed a break from the dance floor or who couldn’t get through to the main bar for a drink, there was the side bar beneath the lanterns that lit the room. The famous leopard-print tablecloths and napkins were back in use.
Mr. Domitrovich noted that he and his wife had done no advertising to promote their return, and still the dance floor was packed and people continued to come in throughout the night. “I’m speechless, overwhelmed,” he said. “We needed to come back, we had to save it, had to restore things. Everyone’s prayers were answered.”
While they were disappointed Mediterranean did not work out, they were happy to be back. Mr. Domitrovich said the first sunrise brunch last weekend brought tears to his eyes. “We’re tapped into that energy and following it,” he said. “I can’t wait to dance!”
Mr. Phiebig was going to join him on the dance floor shortly, but before he did he pointed to the mural on the wall that depicts the owners and loyal customers of all races and ages, all smiling. “That’s what it’s all about,” Mr. Phiebig said. “It’s not about the food, it’s about what’s in there,” he said pointing to customers, their arms in the air waving, their heads moving and their souls happy.