The Lobster Pound restaurant was sold at auction March 9 for $700,000 to Dan Lafayette of Hampden, a hotel and restaurant property owner, who plans to reopen the restaurant by summer.

Inside the restaurant nearly 60 people gathered, but few were there to bid.

Bidding was opened at 11 a.m. at $500,000 by Stefan Keenan of Keenan Auction Co. of South Portland. Keenan struggled to push the bid to $750,000 and after receiving no bids at that amount, he dropped down to $600,000. No one bid on the lesser amount either.

At 11:10 a.m., Keenan announced a recess. The waiting crowd kept up a steady hubbub of conversation during the break.

When Keenan returned, he reopened the bidding, which quickly went up to $650,000, then $675,000 and finally $700,000. The sale included the property, buildings and equipment. The building and land are currently assessed at $909,900 by the town of Lincolnville.

Afterwards, Lafayette said he and his wife plan to reopen the Lobster Pound by Memorial Day. He said that unless the new minimum wage law is changed, he envisions the restaurant will have to use more of a self-service model and takeout business.

Lafayette said if the minimum wage law is changed, "we could hire more people." He talked about server wage increases coming in the next couple of years, and said he cannot afford to eventually pay wait staff $12 an hour.

Lafayette and his wife Carla both have childhood memories of enjoying Lincolnville Beach.

"The sentimental part was a big part for us," he said. "We were scared an out-of-stater might buy it and turn it into a house. So we felt like we could maybe keep it running as a restaurant."

Carla remembers clamming and taking the ferry to Islesboro, and once missing the ferry back and staying overnight on the island. Lafayette said he grew up on a farm in Winterport, and his mother, who was a divorced school teacher, could not afford a camp, but she would take the family to Lincolnville Beach. "That was a big, exciting day in my life, when I was little," he said.

He said he has no plans currently to convert the property into a hotel. "We don't tear things down, we try to come in and run 'em."

Lafayette said he hopes to use the Lobster Pound name, have some of the same menu items, but that they will not be able to offer the same, broad menu that the restaurant had. He also said they will not have a brewery, mentioning that the beer making equipment "had disappeared," and was not part of the auction.

He said the former owners did a great job. "It was a fabulous restaurant. We've heard nothing, but wonderful things about them."

Properties owned by the Lafayette's include: Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, Blue Nose Inn and Wonder View Inn in Bar Harbor, Fireside Inn & Suites in Auburn, Bangor, Belfast, Portland and Waterville, and in Nashua, Gilford and West Lebanon, N.H., the Sea View Inn and Waves Oceanfront Resort in Old Orchard Beach, the Norseman, Seacastles, and Aspinquid Resort in Ogunquit, the Boothbay Harbor Inn, Tugboat Inn, and Fisherman's Wharf Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Best Western White House in Bangor and the Senator Inn in Augusta and Lafayette's Oceanfront Resort in Wells.

The first Lobster Pound eatery on Lincolnville Beach dates back to the 1920s and was little more than a lean-to with a lobster cooker. The restaurant has been in the McLaughlin family since 1958. Before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November 2016, Dick and Patty McLaughlin had owned and operated the Lobster Pound for 44 years.

The longtime owners cited the 2008 stock market crash and ensuing economic downturn, increasing overhead costs that ate into the profits of the restaurant's six-month season, and the loss of 26 parking spaces to eminent domain around 2006 for a state beautification project at Lincolnville Beach, as factors that eventually led to the bankruptcy.

A business partnership that added Andy's Brew Pub to the restaurant in 2014 in order to extend the restaurant's season and attract new customers was unsuccessful. The restaurant was on the real estate market for a year with the Daigle Group, prior to closing its doors at the end of the 2016 season.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at smustapich@villagesoup.com.