The doors to the local Denny's restaurant remained locked on Tuesday. A sign on the entrance said the restaurant was closed temporarily due to COVID-19, but restaurant officials said Tuesday that Denny's locations in Ellsworth and Biddeford would close permanently. Credit: Bill Trotter

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ELLSWORTH, Maine — As many Maine restaurants are facing existential challenges over how to continue operating in the COVID-19 era, national restaurant chain Denny’s has decided to permanently close locations in Ellsworth and Biddeford.

In a post on the Ellsworth restaurant’s Facebook page, which has since been deleted, the company made “a tough business decision” not to reopen the two locations, Denny’s officials said.

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“We want to thank all our guest and team members that have supported us over the years, we will miss you,” Denny’s officials wrote.

A man who answered a side door of the Ellsworth eatery Tuesday afternoon, but who did not want to be identified, said he worked there and had just found out earlier that day that the restaurant would not reopen. There was no one at the restaurant who could comment on the closure, he said, and he was unsure how many employees it had.

No one answered a phone call to the Biddeford restaurant, located at 45 Boulder Way, and attempts to contact officials at the company’s main office in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Janna Richards, Ellsworth’s economic development director, had just found out the local restaurant was not going to reopen, she said Tuesday. The local Denny’s and a Main Street store called Maine Alpaca Experience were the only two local businesses she knew of that had closed permanently because of the pandemic. The alpaca products business continues to operate online and at its farm in Northport, she said.

The city has not been in contact with restaurant officials or their employees, but that it has been actively trying to connect local businesses with available resources to help them keep operating and is looking for ways to help stores and restaurants stay in business, Richards said.

As the pandemic wears on, however, there could be other casualties in the business community, she said.

“We don’t know what will happen,” Richards said.

The Ellsworth Denny’s first opened in 1998, according to the city’s assessing records.

Denny’s has four other restaurants in Maine in Bangor, Augusta, Auburn and Portland and more than 1,700 locations worldwide, according to the restaurant chain’s website.

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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....