Dec. 28–FALMOUTH — The Coonamessett Inn, a community mainstay for banquets, weddings and special events for decades, will be sold in early 2017 to a boutique hotel chain with properties on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
Lark Hotels, which has offices in Amesbury and Portland, Maine, will add the Coonamessett to its portfolio once the liquor license change is approved by the town and state, which should be done by February. The Coonamessett will be the 20th hotel owned by Lark, which owns properties across New England and in California, and its first on Cape Cod.
William Zammer, owner of the Coonamessett Inn, said he and his wife, Linda, have been pursuing a sale of the property for about a year. They own several other properties under the Cape Cod Restaurants umbrella, but he said the 311 Gifford St. inn was taking up an inordinate amount of his time.
"We've been here for 21 years," he said. "I'm sad we have to do this, but I'm 71 years old. It's time to take a look at what I'm doing."
Zammer bought the Coonamessett Inn in 1996. Other properties in the Cape Cod Restaurants portfolio include Clancy's in Dennis Port, the Flying Bridge and Red Horse Inn in Falmouth and Tugboats in West Yarmouth. None of those are for sale, Zammer said.
"Those are fine and not on the market," he said. "(The Coonamessett Inn) is a very profitable business and it pains me to do this. It has been a very good business, but it's just been too much."
Zammer said the sale includes the real estate and the inn's hotel and banquet business. Neither Zammer nor Robert Blood, CEO of Lark Hotels, disclosed the purchase price.
According to the property's tax assessment records, the inn sits on a little more than 4 acres with a total assessed value of more than $3.2 million in fiscal 2016, which ended June 30. The oldest building on the site dates to 1796, according to tax records, with more buildings added in 1953, 1954 and 1968.
Town officials recently considered locating the senior center at the Coonamessett Inn after Zammer approached them about buying the property. But the town backed off the plan after the two sides could not reach an agreement on price; an appraisal ordered by the town pegged the value of the land and buildings at $5.4 million.
Lark Hotels owns two hotels on Nantucket — 76 Main and 21 Broad — and three on Martha's Vineyard — The Sydney, The Christopher and Summercamp, according to the chain's website. Blood said he had been looking for a Cape Cod property since founding the chain and had not found the right opportunity. The Coonamessett Inn presented an "interesting opportunity" for the company, he said.
At 27 rooms, the Coonamessett falls in the middle of Lark Hotels' size range, which goes from six to 96 rooms, but it will be the biggest restaurant and the fourth overall in the chain, Blood said.
"It's got such a great legacy and had such great stewardship over the years," he said. "For us to be able to step into a property that has done so well is a privilege."
That said, Lark will put its stamp on the inn within the next year. Blood said the first season would be status quo, with all staff staying on board and all wedding and hotel bookings honored. But during the 2017-2018 off-season, he said, every corner of the inn will be touched in some way to reflect the chain's aesthetics.
"We have to understand the property and its relationship to the community before we step into the renovation," he said.
– Follow Sean F. Driscoll on Twitter: @seanfdriscoll.