A sign about a planned new Japanese hibachi restaurant stood outside a defunct Denny's diner in Ellsworth, Maine on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. The building has been closed since Denny's ceased operations at the site in May 2020. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

A new hibachi-style Japanese restaurant is expected to open in a former Denny’s in Ellsworth that closed two years ago .

A sign erected outside the shuttered High Street restaurant says “Coming soon Crazy Sumo Japanese Hibachi Steakhouse.”

No one was inside the former Denny’s on Tuesday afternoon, though some furnishings inside had been moved — a possible sign that the space is being readied for renovation. The building has been shuttered since Denny’s closed down in May of 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dining furniture in a closed Denny’s restaurant in Ellsworth, Maine is visible through a window on April 12, 2022. The restaurant shut down in May 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new Japanese restaurant is expected to open in the space in the near future. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

The new restaurant is the latest sign of recovery for pandemic-related closings on the city’s main commercial strip. A Convenient MD location on High Street, which was under construction when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Maine in the spring 2020, remained closed after construction was completed and did not open until January 2021. However, other commercial spaces along High Street still remain closed with no signs of life.

Lori Roberts, code enforcement officer for the city, said that the new restaurateurs came to City Hall Tuesday morning to pick up a building permit application to renovate the building interior, but had not yet submitted any information. She said she did not have contact information for the restaurant owners.

Rob McKenny, a local real estate agent, said he represented the new restaurant owners in helping to arrange a lease with the property owner, which is listed in the city’s property tax records as 75 High Street LLC of Galena, Maryland.

McKenney did not disclose further information about the new owners.

The building opened as a Denny’s restaurant in 1998, when it was built. It was one of two Denny’s restaurants in Maine that shut down around the same time in 2020. The company still operates four restaurants in the state.

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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....