The Harborside Takeout food shack, which is open each year from May through October, sits in the overflow parking lot at Ellsworth's Harbor Park on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Ellsworth’s Harbor Park could have a different food vendor this summer.

A request for proposals has been issued, seeking vendors to apply for a license for the park. It could even bring a second food vendor to the increasingly popular spot.

“It’s been growing every year for the past six years,” Mark Remick, chair of the city’s harbor commission, said Tuesday about use of the site. “The past two years we’ve seen a dramatic increase.”

Commercial use of the harbor is about double what it was four years ago, he said. During that time, overall use of the site has increased by roughly 20 percent.

The city has been making improvements to the harbor and park over the years. It has dredged the harbor and expanded the marina, where boaters can moor their vessels or tie up to the municipal dock after traveling up the tidal river from Blue Hill Bay. It has expanded the site as well, adding a small gazebo and extending the park’s lawn to an adjacent property where the city’s old wastewater treatment plant was demolished in 2013.

The city has posted on its website a request for proposals from food vendors as part of a goal to improve parking, Remick said.

Michael Harris, who works as the city’s wastewater superintendent, and his family have owned and operated Harborside Takeout at the park since 2017. His family plans to submit a proposal to the city so the business can stay in the park, and they have no backup location if they are not accepted, he said.  

The current location of Harborside Takeout, in a removable shed next to Water Street, limits the amount of vehicles that can fit in the unpaved overflow lot, where the former Schaeffer Building was demolished in 2006, Remick said. Visitors often park boat trailers for the day in the overflow lot, which also gets heavy use on days when live music or other events are held. The shed could be moved to the new location, if the city approves the license.

Having food vendors move next to the bathrooms, at the edge of the paved lot, would free up more space in the overflow lot and will prevent parked vehicles — especially those with boat trailers — from blocking off the Harborside Takeout from the rest of the park, Remick said.

Remick said that if the business is given another lease to continue operating at the park, another food vendor also could be selected. He was skeptical that there would be room for more than two food vendors at the park.

The city doesn’t have the budget to pay for reorganizing the overflow parking scheme and where food vendors set up, Lisa Sekulich, the city’s public works director, said.

Part of the goal of issuing the request for proposals, she said, is to see if there is interest from other food vendors and, if so, what sort of reorganization scheme would make the most sense.

“We’re just trying to see what’s out there,” Sekulich said.

Harris said his takeout stand could benefit from another food vendor operating in the park by increasing the variety of options.

Harris sells burgers, fries, lobster rolls and similar fare at the seasonal takeout stand, which operates each year from May through October.

Whoever submits a winning proposal “shall have the right to sell food products, ice cream, candy, and non-alcoholic beverages from a removable shed type structure, mobile type cart or vehicle,” the city’s request says. “No permanent structures may be erected.”

The deadline for submitting food concessions proposals to the city is 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 28.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....