LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — With a winning bid of $700,000, a Maine couple that owns more than two dozen restaurants and hotels across Maine and New Hampshire is buying an iconic midcoast restaurant.
Danny and Carla Lafayette own 23 properties scattered across Maine, plus three more in New Hampshire. Now, they’re adding the shuttered Lincolnville Lobster Pound to that list. They plan to reopen the restaurant, perched on Lincolnville Beach, in time for the summer tourism season.
Danny Lafayette said his decision to purchase the business was “probably 75 percent sentimental and 25 percent business.”
His family ate at the restaurant a few times when he was a boy, and Carla Lafayette’s family frequented Lincolnville Beach, where she’d spend afternoons digging for clams. When the lobster pound closed, they worried someone from out of state would buy the property, tear it down and try to build a house.
“We don’t tear things down. We come in and try to run them,” Lafayette said.
The Lafayettes’ properties include the White House Inn and Fireside Inn and Suites in Bangor; the Bluenose Inn and Wonder View Inn in Bar Harbor; Boothbay Harbor Inn; and Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, among others. Several of their hotels have restaurants.
After the Lobster Pound closed at the end of last season, its owner Dick McLaughlin filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. McLaughlin said fallout from the 2008 economic crisis and rising costs of running an oceanfront operation — notably hikes in flood insurance rates — and the looming minimum wage hike ultimately led to the decision to shut down.
Dozens of people packed into one of the restaurant’s chilly dining rooms overlooking Penobscot Bay for Thursday’s foreclosure auction. Most were just curious to see who the buyer would be and for how much the building would go.
Lafayette’s $700,000 bid fell below the property’s assessed value of around $900,000, but they expect the building will require some renovations. The couple also assume responsibility for about $16,000 in back property taxes, plus annual maintenance fees paid to the state toward a wastewater treatment plant that services Lincolnville’s waterfront businesses. In addition, the sea wall on the property needs repairs.
Lafayette acknowledged that he’s taking a big risk reopening a restaurant operation this size. The 260-seat restaurant, like many, will likely only be profitable a few months out of the year.
He has been an outspoken opponent of Maine’s minimum wage increase, primarily because it eliminates the state’s tipped wage credit for restaurant wait staffs. The move has been widely criticized by restaurateurs and others in the service industry, and prompted efforts to reinstate the credit. The wage hike will make it difficult for many restaurants to survive, let alone make a profit, he said.
The purchase is expected to close in May, and the Lafayettes say they hope to reopen the restaurant under the same name later in the spring.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.