A piece of paper taped over a sign at the rear entrance of Finn's Irish Pub in Ellsworth alerts potential customers that the restaurant is closed. The owners are hoping to sell the pub to someone who will reopen it. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The owners of Finn’s Irish Pub, which closed this week, hope that a new owner will revive the local favorite.

Lorena Stearns, who owns the business with husband Paul Markosian, said a confluence of factors led to the decision to close and sell the business. The final straw was equipment failures in the kitchen.

“There have been some circumstances that individually we’ve been able to overcome in the past, but this time, they all seemed to hit at the same time and felt insurmountable,” said Stearns, who has run the pub for the past dozen years.

Stearns and Markosian, who also own Flexit Cafe next door to the pub, own the building at 156 Main St. where Finn’s is located. They bought it in 2010, a few years after longtime popular restaurant Maidee’s ended its run at the same location.

The pub is best known for the bar area, which was built to resemble a train dining car, complete with an art deco interior and a row of low stools spaced evenly in front of a marble counter.

The dining car was built in 1932 and formerly housed the Pineland Diner in Augusta. It was later moved to Northport before being hauled to Ellsworth in 1982, where it became Maidee’s, named for then-owner Maidee Chang. The business was renamed Finn’s in the late 2000s, not long before Stearns and Marskosian bought it.

A dozen stools line the front edge of a marble counter at Finn’s Irish Pub on Main Street in Ellsworth on Thursday, July 28, 2022. The pub closed this week, but the owners hope to find a buyer who will re-open it.; More than a dozen dollar bills with messages scrawled on them are displayed above the bar. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

“We have hopes that someone new with fresh energy will come love this old dining car the way we have,” Stearns said. “The Irish pub concept is a perfect fit for the downtown and for this building.”

Before making the decision to close, Stearns posted over the weekend on the pub’s Facebook page that Finn’s staff would be “taking a break for a bit.” She said that on Saturday the kitchen staff had been working in 100-degree heat, the convection oven broke and the keg refrigerator malfunctioned.

“Morale was too low to open Sunday,” Stearns said.

She said she needed a few days’ break “so I could wrap my head around what our course of action would be.”

Like the vast majority of restaurants, the pub had to make some drastic adjustments to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic and still faced several challenges, she said.

For a while they shifted to a takeout business with online ordering. When they welcomed back patrons, it was at half capacity and without live music, which had long been a staple of the pub. Supply chain restrictions, spikes in food prices and staffing shortages persisted as they tried working their way back to some semblance of normal.

“Our staffing never got back up to where we needed it to be in order to open back up fully,” she said, adding that as of last weekend 18 people were employed at Finn’s including herself. “It’s been really difficult to hire particularly back-of-the-house positions. It’s a hot, difficult job in a small kitchen. The staff we have had has been amazing, committed. This closure has been heartbreaking for them.”

Pedestrians stroll past  a “help wanted” sign taped up in the window of Finn’s Irish Pub on Main Street in downtown Ellsworth on Thursday, July 28, 2022. Staffing difficulties are one reason the pub shut down this week, but the owners hope to find a buyer will will re-open it. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

Stearns also credited the pub’s regular customers and the local community for helping to keep Finn’s open the past few years, despite the many challenges.

“We’ve been honored to host hundreds of birthday parties, quite a few engagements, a lot of retirement, graduation and holiday gatherings, prom dates, and sadly, more memorial services than we’d have liked,” she said.  “We’ve loved being able to support so many local causes through our charitable contributions. We’ve loved seeing our friends in the dining room and belly up to the bar.”

Danielle Ruddy, a longtime manager at Finn’s, posted on Facebook that she moved around a lot when she was younger and essentially “grew up” at the pub, as did her son. She said she “poured my heart and soul” into Finn’s.

“I was incredibly lucky to be embraced by this community. You took me in. You were there when I needed help, you always made me feel welcome and you let me lean on you. I have formed so many relationships, created countless memories and made lifelong friendships,” Ruddy wrote. “I was finally home. “


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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....