Every summer, Martha’s Vineyard Sightseeing tours heads up to Aquinnah, where visitors gaze out over the cliffs and spend a few minutes at the Aquinnah shops. It’s a mutual relationship that helps keep both the tour company and the shops going for another year.

But according to shop owners, only one restaurant was open past Labor Day last year, and the tours stopped going to the cliffs earlier than usual. This year the buses continue to make the trek, although the Aquinnah Shop is again the only restaurant open.

Faith’s Seafood Shack, the first shop on the left heading up to the lookout, remains closed after two years, with equipment and supplies still waiting to be used inside. Dreamcatcher, just up the way on the right, closed for the season on August 30.

Last Wednesday morning, a steady stream of visitors perused the handful of gift shops and headed up to the lookout to see the Gay Head cliffs and the open ocean below. But the six picnic tables near the lookout were empty, their blue umbrellas closed.

Faith's Seafood Shack has been closed for two years. — Mark Lovewell

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), whose members lease most of the nine lots, has agreed to meet with the town selectmen, who earlier this month demanded that the two empty lots be occupied by next summer.

According to the lease agreement, tribal members have the right of first refusal in leasing the lots from the town, but selectmen said that if the lots remain vacant, the town should vote on whether to extend the leases to non-tribal members.

“I think the best-case outcome is that we just hammer out some kind of assurance between both parties that those lots will be utilized next summer in whatever capacity,” town administrator Adam Wilson said.

Shop owners agree that the lots should be used, but also feel strongly that they should remain in tribal hands. Selectman Jim Newman said altering the agreement to allow for nontribal leaseholders would be a last resort.

Berta Welch, owner of Stony Creek Gifts, was attending to customers last Wednesday as a morning breeze created a soothing cacophony of wind chimes in her shop.

“I always believed that this property should have gone to the tribe to begin with,” she said of the shops in general. “We are the ones that have used it since the beginning — and used it in the sense of making a living.” While she hoped another food shop would replace Faith’s, she argued that the open space lot was valuable in itself as a place for people to sit and relax during the summer.

“You can bet there are nontribal members who are just itching to get up here,” she added. “But, you know, this is ours, and it was set aside for a specific reason.”

Most of the shops open around May 1 and close in late October, but some remain open on weekends through Thanksgiving. In addition to the shops, a small kiosk with information about Aquinnah history and culture is leased by the tribe. The Aquinnah Shop, near the top of the hill, is owned by the Vanderhoops, a tribal family.

Each lease holder pays an annual rent of $8.27 per square foot to the town. Faith’s and the open-space lot with the picnic tables each provided $4,960 in rent this year. Faith’s and Dreamcatcher also pay a $1,000 water fee. Altogether, the five lease lots provided $27,423.28 to the town this year.

Mr. Wilson said the loss of town revenue was not the issue, since rent is still coming in. “It’s just a question of the complete utilization of the space for everyone’s benefit,” he said. “To walk up the stairs and the first store you see on the left is not open and has not been open in two years, it doesn’t show the strength of business that is really capable for that part of town.”

According to the lease agreement, tribal members have the right of first refusal in leasing the lots from the town. — Mark Lovewell

Faith’s closed two years ago following a separation in partnership between Faith Vanderhoop and James Shephard. Ms. Welch said Mr. Shephard, a nontribal member, had invested money in the building and infrastructure, and was unwilling to allow Ms. Vanderhoop to continue running the business. “It was a big mess,” she said.

Years ago, there were as many as five food shops open at the cliffs at one time. David Vanderhoop had an ice cream shop in what is now the open-space lot. And another food shop, Marie’s, occupied the lot where the tribal kiosk now stands.

“Business was great,” said Anne Vanderhoop, David’s mother, who sat behind a glass counter near the entrance of the Aquinnah Shop on Wednesday, under a large portrait of the medicine man Napoleon Madison, who started the shop in the 1940s.

Jacob Vanderhoop, 26, has cooked at the shop since he was 12. He said the shop is doing well, but has struggled to handle the volume of customers, especially in late summer when much of the staff goes back to school.

Like others, he hoped another food establishment would fill the gap left by Faith’s. “It’s obviously going to be more competition for us, but it will suit the people that come better, it will suit the other businesses better, and we will just have more options,” he said.

Adriana Ignacio was arranging clothing on a rack outside her shop, On the Cliffs. She was unsure of the economic value of the two lots, but noted that the loss of Faith’s has affected the shops, in particular with the loss of tour visits last fall.

“When the buses don’t come, that does affect us,” she said. She too feels the leases should stay within the tribe, noting the long history of tribal-run businesses at the cliffs. But she also worries about the overall appearance of the area.

“It’s a very slippery slope,” she said. “I have to support tribal members getting the businesses, but it is unfortunate that we look a little abandoned.”

Juli Vanderhoop, a town selectman and owner of the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah, said the tribal council had ignored her proposal last fall to take over the lease at Faith’s. The council finally voted Wednesday to offer her the lease, she said, but did not name a price.

“I would love to open it, but I don’t even know what I’m dealing with up there,” she said, explaining that the tribe has acquired the building, which would add to the total cost of the lease. “It’s still just moving very slowly,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wilson said Dreamcatcher may be closing for good. “The recent news is that they are closed now and don’t want to reopen,” he said Friday, although the town has not received formal notice from the tribe.

In response to Mr. Wilson’s request early this month, tribal administrator Judith Graham-Robey said in an email that the tribe would welcome a “leadership-to-leadership meeting” and would be in touch after last Wednesday’s meeting of the tribal council. As of last Friday, a meeting had not been scheduled.