PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Nearly three years to the day after opening its doors, The Crow’s Nest Restaurant and Event Center, LLC, officially closed them on Saturday, Oct. 26. Owner Jim Stacey cited rising fuel costs and other expenses among the reasons for shutting down.
“Within the first eight months of opening, the price of gas and heating oil rose more than $1 a gallon,” Stacey said. “It increased our expenses from the start, as well as those of private citizens. People couldn’t afford to go out and cover personal expenses, too. When they [the public] started to recover, they continued to eat home rather than dine out.”
Heat and utilities for the more than 12,000 square feet of space that comprised the restaurant and event center proved a daunting challenge to keep up with. Electrical fees also proved to be a burden.
“The biggest [electrical cost] was what they call a ‘demand charge.’ Ours was $1,000 to $1,200 a month for electricity, regardless of our usage. That figure was derived based on peak use, but that didn’t reflect our true usage on a regular basis,” he said.
Vacant for nearly two years prior to Stacey acquiring the building, it originally served as home to Slopes Northern Maine Restaurant and Brewing Company. The building, which was stripped of its contents, including fixtures, was completely refurbished by Stacey, who had hoped to make it the best event center north of Bangor.
“This was the largest center of its kind, not just in Presque Isle but for Aroostook County. I feel very sad it’s closing. There isn’t an alternative for its size and the type of facility to accommodate all the organizations, businesses and events that we’ve hosted,” said the owner.
Stacey said the rising cost of fuel, utilities, food and labor eventually took its toll.
“My monthly expenses started at around $120,000 a month in the beginning. I got it down to half of that but that was still a vast amount. It’s been difficult and this is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made,” said Stacey.
“We made it to last spring, but spring was very poor from a revenue standpoint. My position was, if there was any way possible not to close until all the summer weddings took place — bridal parties make commitments to a location, beyond the event center. Families make hotel reservations, flights, etc. It could have created a black spot in a marriage, if things didn’t go as planned. I didn’t want that to happen to any of the couples,” he said.
The last wedding booked for the season took place the weekend before the facility closed.
Stacey said he and event manager Cheryl Murchison have been busy notifying all those who were booked through the end of this year and into 2014 of the closure.
“2014 was showing great promise for the event center side of the business,” Stacey said.
He took pride in being a hands-on owner.
“I only missed being here about 30 days since opening. I wanted to meet people and be a part of daily operations, not just a boss. I never took any salary,” said Stacey.
Despite giving it his all, Stacey now finds himself in the same position as his staff.
“I’m now looking for work,” said Stacey. “I’m not sure what the next chapter in my life will be. Whatever it is, all I can do is give it my best.”
Stacey said all matters regarding The Crow’s Nest are being handled by his attorney, Christopher Ledger. Anyone with questions about the business is asked to call 498-2581.